A Visit to the Roth New York Bar at Hauser & Wirth in Chelsea

by Franklin Hill Perrell, Artful Circle

Our recent visit to Hauser and Wirth (511 W. 18) to see the exhibition of Sobodh Gupta yielded an unexpected surprise: the Friday and Saturday free espresso service at Roth’s New York Bar. If you didn’t know, the New York Bar is a permanent installation, in effect an art piece that does double duty as a functional bar. While in practice

this is not a liquor bar serving the public (though that would appear to be the theme, with actual liquor bottles on display) , it is a coffee bar- which purpose it certainly serves. A discrete sign indicates the availability of espresso on Fridays and Saturdays. I was able to secure a latte, and many other guests appeared in due course. Above all, however, it is a work of art and one that should be experienced as such.

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Hauser and Wirth’s Chelsea Gallery, at approximately 25,000 square feet, is a second floor space, formerly the Roxy Discotheque-Roller Skating Rink. Hauser Wirth, in case you don’t know, is a mega gallery, with multiple locations, lively publications, consistently newsworthy artists, and an ambitious and consistently engaging exhibition program, and – incidentally, a commitment to sustainability and education. Exemplified by the ongoing presence of New York Bar, an air of experimentation, one of remarkable freedom and creativity, prevails in what is certainly a highly successful enterprise.

The piece arose out of Hauser and Wirth’s inaugural show at this space in 2013 : Dieter Roth. Bjorn Roth. When invited to examine the space, Bjorn Roth envisioned this possibility as an element that would endure after the initial exhibition concluded. Dieter Roth (1930-1998), Bjorn’s father, was an enormously influential German artist and teacher, a radically improvisational figure who could make art out of just about anything. The spirit of monumental collage and assemblage is more than hinted at in the all enveloping atmosphere of New York Bar. Bjorn Roth, who worked together with his father for twenty years, achieved a design miracle with this bar, where elements salvaged from the roller skating history of the space, as well as singular Roth works- both two and three dimensional, are combined in unexpected ways along with new elements specially created for the work. The reveal insight not only into the unique history of this building, but vividly expresses the make-do, use what you have, material culture of bohemian leisure.The work is uniquely an expression of three generations of family art practice, as well as a skill in bar-building! It evokes perspectives on the way bars and cafes have been central meeting places of the avant garde and gives an ongoing and dramatic New York presence for Roth that has earned shows at MOMA and similar venues. It is not to be missed!

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