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Cofounders Helene Winer and Janelle Reiring gazing down from staircase

 

 

Forty Years in New York

On a crisp Friday evening in New York, November 14, 1980, Helene Winer and Janelle Reiring open Metro Pictures at 169 Mercer Street with a group exhibition of a dozen artists, including Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, James Welling, Robert Longo, and Richard Prince. On December 6, Jack Goldstein shows his ultra-vivid air-brushed paintings, and Sherman her “Rear Screen Projection” photographs.

Flier from the opening exhibition at Metro Pictures

Longo begins 1981 with his “Men in the Cities” drawings, besuited men and elegant women falling through the air. Exhibitions are about three weeks long, and nine artists have solo shows before summer starts, including Prince, Simmons, Troy Brauntuch, Thomas Lawson, and Sherrie Levine, whose exhibition closes on June 5, just days after Kasper König and Laszlo Glozer’s epic “Westkunst” opens in Cologne, with work by Goldstein, Brauntuch, and Longo on hand.

In November, Sherman exhibits color photographs—unsettling ones that will come to be known as “Centerfolds.” Peter Schjeldahl tells the New York Times years later that he saw them and dashed to a payphone to call his editors, but learned it was too late to pitch a review. “I had to write something that day, and it turned out to be a check,” he says. (He pays in installments.)

It’s 1982. Documenta 7, curated by Rudi Fuchs, brings about 387,000 visitors to Kassel, Germany, in June, plus five Metro artists (Levine, Sherman, Brauntuch, Goldstein, and Longo). Mike Kelley debuts in September with Monkey Island and Confusion, as does Louise Lawler, arranging artworks by other artists and presenting deadpan photographs of other arrangements, and Walter Robinson, with paintings that borrow from pulp novels and movie posters. In 1983 there are shows of Eva Hesse, then Longo, Simmons, and William Leavitt. The gallery moves one block over, to 150 Greene Street in October. “Artists Call Against U.S. Intervention in Central America” runs for eight days in 1984, from January 14 through 21.

Storefront door of Metro Pictures original location, 150 Greene Street

 

John Miller enters in 1984, as well as a Dutchman, René Daniëls—and there’s a group show on October 20 with a bunch of Germans (Werner Büttner, Martin Kippenberger, the Oehlens). Frank Gehry displays plastic-laminate lamps resembling fish and snakes, which he conceived after throwing the material on the ground and deciding that he liked how the shards looked. 

Kippenberger’s first one-person effort outside Europe opens May 25, 1985, and closes June 15, the same day that a man attacks Rembrandt’s Danaë (1636) with sulfuric acid and a knife at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. (Conservation is completed in 1997.) A year later, Robinson shows his “spin paintings.” Seven years after that, Damien Hirst attempts the medium.

Storefront view of Metro Pictures

 

Seventy-two art dealers and 600 artists sell work under the banner of “Art Against AIDS” in 1987, and on June 4, Leo Castelli, aged 89, hands a check to Elizabeth Taylor at a benefit. “I just love men with checks,” the Times reports her telling him. 1988. Gretchen Bender. People in Pain. Mike Kelley. PANTS SHITTER & PROUD P.S. JERK-OFF TOO. And, More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid and The Wages of Sin.

Steven Parrino in 1989, Sherman’s “History Portraits” and Kelley’s “Arenas” in 1990, Fred Wilson’s “Primitivism” in 1991—and Jim Shaw’s “Thrift Store Paintings,” with scores of wild discoveries from scattered shops alighting in another. The next year, more than 15 of Kippenberger’s paintings sit in his Dumpster.

A flier for Louise Lawler's 1987 exhibition at Metro Pictures

The New York Times reports on March 14, 1993, that Radio Hula, “an exotic store in SoHo” at 169 Mercer, “is thriving on the sale of everything Hawaiian . . . Entering the store, with its yellow and brown decor and sweet aroma, is like walking into a field of pineapples.” On September 18, huge banners by Gary Simmons are hung: “ROOTS,” “ORIGINAL MAN.” In 1993, Offshore Gallery hangs up its shingle in East Hampton and will go on to do shows with Prince, David Salle, Ross Bleckner, and others. Operating until 1995, it’s run by Winer, Reiring, Rachel Lehmann, and David Maupin, a director at Metro at the time.

1994: Shaw’s “Dreams That Money Can Buy” and Tony Oursler’s first display of deranged, foreboding video sculptures at the gallery. After working at Metro and operating a gallery out of his apartment, Friedrich Petzel opens a SoHo storefront. 1995: Ronald Jones’s bonsai sculptures and the acquisition of a full set of Sherman’s 69 “Untitled Film Stills” by the Museum of Modern Art, which shows them in 1997.

In a May 13, 1996 New York story about galleries relocating to Chelsea, David Zwirner is skeptical. “First of all, you should be able to take a train, and you should be able to get a decent meal,” he argues. Near the end of the year, which has seen ghostly wall drawings by Gary Simmons and menacing new portraits by Sherman, Metro leaves the stores of SoHo behind for 519 West 24th Street. The artists are ready for a change, Winer tells the Times. “I’m not sorry for the gallery, but for me, personally, I enjoy that kind of action. You know, I just like to go shop.” 150 Greene become a Blue Fish clothing store, then Moss.

The facade of Metro Pictures' new location at 519 West 24th street

 

There is a one-day preview of the new space on November 17, 1996, followed by more construction, and then Lawler officially inaugurates it on February 1, 1997. On September 13, six months after Kippenberger’s death, a subway entrance he designed for his “Metro Net”—a system linking Syros, Greece; Kassel; and other locales—goes on view. Bottino opens on 10th Avenue in 1998, with backing from dealers in the neighborhood, and Oursler and Kelley stage “The Poetics Project,” which is “the most irritating show in New York,” Ken Johnson writes. (“Mike loved that quote,” Oursler tells Artforum after Kelley’s passing in 2012.)

From left to right: Helene Winer, Mike Kelley, Janelle Reiring posing for a photo

 

Andreas Slominski offers a variety of animal traps (some very charming) in September of 1999, and on October 23, Carroll Dunham paints his way deeper into the psychological jungle. American Psycho is released on April 14, 2000, with Christian Bale starring as the investment banker and serial killer Patrick Bateman; “Men in the City” pieces adorn the walls of his apartment. On April 22, a survey by Daniëls goes up at the gallery.

September 11, 2001. September 15, Gary Simmons. A wishing well swirls in chalk on one wall. October 27, Olaf Breuning. 2002, T.J. Wilcox. 2003, Catherine Sullivan’s Five Economies, Isaac Julien’s Baltimore, and this message on a February 15 invitation for a Lawler show: “NO DRINKS FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT SUPPORT THE ANTI-WAR DEMONSTRATION.” Indelible clowns fill Sherman’s 2004 outing. In 2005, two years after his death, Goldstein’s burningly cold early ‘80s paintings are surveyed. Gianni Motti organizes a séance with a psychic on March 30, 2006, to conjure the spirit of John Lennon, who never arrives. Next: Julien’s Looking for Langston.

Paulina Olowska and Sterling Ruby appear in 2007, and Shaw closes out the year with “Dr. Goldfoot and His Bikini Bombs,” but he soon decides it’s too restrained. During the winter break, he adds more works; the show runs for two months. Robinson’s sly ‘80s paintings are revisited in April 2008, and Miller gilds his typically fecal-colored forms for December.

Helene Winer and Janelle Reiring in front of Cindy Sherman works

“The Pictures Generation” is held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2009—and David Maljkovic is at the gallery, bearing Images With Their Own Shadow. Metro’s bookkeeper, Photios Giovanis, opens Callicoon Fine Arts in that upstate hamlet. André Butzer’s antic not-quite-abstractions in 2010, and “Fitting at Metro Pictures” in 2011, Lawler stretching the dimensions of her photos on giant adhesives to fit the walls of 519 West 24th. Dozens of plastic shopping bags adorn B. Wurtz’s Bunch #2, in a June survey of the artist organized by White Columns director Matthew Higgs. Tris Vonna-Michell, September.

A dog periodically plays dead on a rug for Nina Beier’s Tragedy, in Gianni Jetzer’s “Dogma” 2012 summer show, and two pilots visit the gallery to realize Sperm of Two Pilots for Slominski’s September exhibition. MoMA mounts a Sherman retrospective. On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy batters New York, as the installation of a Gary Simmons survey is just starting. The gallery floods, but after repairs that show opens exactly one month later

Janelle Reiring and Helene Winer with Cindy Sherman in front of Metro Pictures original location.

 

2013, Sara VanDerBeek and Claire Fontaine. 2014, Lawler’s “No Drones” and Trevor Paglen’s “Code Names of the Surveillance State.” Daniëls’s return to the gallery and the christening of 83 Pitt Street downtown, which hosts performances, shows, film screenings, and sundry other activities by Nora Schultz, David Levine, Voila Yeşiltaç over three years. 2015, Gary Simmons’s “Fight Night” and Camille Henrot’s delirious self-help telephones. 2016, a freshly renovated gallery and Bas Jan Ader. 2017, Lawler at MoMA. WHY PICTURES NOW. The first album from the Chainsmokers, started by Metro staffer Alex Pall, goes platinum. 2018, Oliver Laric’s premiere, Andreas Slominskyyy’s portable toilet sculptures, and Cui Jie coming aboard. 2019, some 40,000 bullets comprise Longo’s latest Death Star of gun violence, Judith Hopf lays charismatic bricks, and Alexandre Singh transforms the space into a lovingly handmade theater.

The estate of Bender and Latifa Echakhch join Metro in 2020. The gallery closes on March 14 because of the coronavirus lockdown, but Gary Simmons’s latest show is hung and officially opens five days later. It can only be viewed online. Beginning April 3, a digital film festival of Metro artists runs on more than a dozen weekends. Simmons’s exhibition reopens to the public July 7, and Sherman’s latest photos are unveiled September 26. To ensure social distancing, only ten people can enter at a time. On November 14, the gallery turns 40.

- Andrew Russeth worked at Metro Pictures, 2010 to 2011

 

 

 

After discussing various ideas, Louise Lawler proposed a "Before Metro" show. The concept of the show would be for artists who have shown at Metro Pictures to present a work that was made before their relationship with the gallery.  The history of the gallery has been written by those who were invited to participate over the years and that invitation was informed by the work that preceded the gallery's involvement.  The more we thought about it, the more apt that framework felt as a way to acknowledge the gallery's history and pinpoint its influence.

Eva Hesse mixed media work on panel

Eva Hesse
Legs of a Walking Ball, 1965
Varnish, tempera, enamel, cord, metal, papier-caché, unknown modeling compound, particle board, wood
17 3/4 x 26 3/8 x 5 1/2 inches
45.1 x 67 x 14 cm
Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul
© The Estate of Eva Hesse. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

William Leavitt installation of a microphone, plywood box, and artificial plants

William Leavitt
Garden Sound, 1970/2011
Artificial plants, plywood box, water, circulating pump, microphone, amplifier, speaker
30 x 144 x 84 inches
152.4 x 365.8 x 213.4 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Greene Naftali, New York

Louise Lawler photograph of eggs on a radiator

Louise Lawler
Half Dozen
circa 1971

 

Laurie Simmons Untitled (Cherry Wallpaper), 1973-75

Laurie Simmons
Untitled (Cherry Wallpaper), 1973-75
Self-Portrait, George, Free Tickets, Ed
Silver Gelatin Prints
Courtesy of the artist 

Bas Jan Ader video of flower arrangement

Bas Jan Ader

Primary Time, 1974

color video, silent

duration: 25'47"

Jack Goldstein video of a knife

Jack Goldstein

The Knife, 1975

color/silent

duration: 5'30"

Michel Zwack three army men in concrete sculpture

Michael Zwack 

Untitled (Soldiers), 1976 

concrete and plastic 

2 13/16 x 2 1/16 x 2 1/16 inches (each)

Troy Brauntuch print on paper.

Troy Brauntuch
White Statue, 1976
Lithograph and silkscreen on paper
47 x 35 inches; 119.4 x 88.9 cm
Framed: 51 x 38.8 inches; 129.5 x 98.6 cm
Edition 1/1, 2AP
Courtesy of the artist and Petzel, New York.

Cindy Sherman video in unhappy hooker disguise

Cindy Sherman

Unhappy Hooker, 1976

Super-8 film, color, silent

Duration: 3'33"

Wall mounted sculpture of male figure

Robert Longo
American Soldier, 1977
Enamel on cast polyester resin with aluminum
25 x 13 x 2 3/4 inches
63.5 x 33.02 x 6.9 cm

James Welling photograph of a reclined Jack Goldstein

James Welling
Jack Goldstein in the Pacific Building, February 1977
Polaroid Type 55 print
3 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches
8.89 x 10.16 cm
Courtesy the artist

Thomas Lawson of a distressed surface with dog

Thomas Lawson
Gold Dog, 1978
oil and enamel on canvas with painted wood frame
53 x 43 inches
134.62 x 109.22 cm
Courtesy of the artist

Mike Kelley Catholic Birdhouse, 1978

Mike Kelley
Catholic Birdhouse, 1978
Wood, paint, and composite shingles
22 x 18 1/2 x 18 1/2 in.
Courtesy Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts and Hauser & Wirth Gallery. All Rights Reserved / VAGA at ARS, NY.
Photo: Richard Stoner

Walter Robinson painting of Batman and female figure

Walter Robinson 
Batman, 1979
acrylic on masonite 
17 x 12 inches
43.18 x 30.48 cm
Collection Robin Winters

John Miller video of various people delivering statements

John Miller

Contradicting Statements (1977), 1977

black and white video with sound

duration: 9'14"

René Daniëls painting

René Daniëls
Avenue plantage moyen (RD-S08), 1980
Oil on canvas
47 1/4 x 63 inches
120 x 160 cm
Private Collection

Martin Kippenberger painting  of a figure in front of a souvenir sign

Martin Kippenberger
Ohne Titel (aus der Serie Lieber Maler, male mir)
Untitled (from the series Dear Painter, Paint for Me), 1981
Acrylic on canvas
78 x 118 inches
200 x 300 cm
Hasso Plattner Collection
© Estate of Martin Kippenberger, Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne

Gretchen Bender painting collage on board

Gretchen Bender
Autopsy, 1983
Enamel silkscreen on sign tin and color photographs on hardboard
64 × 96 inches
162.6 × 243.8 cm
The Menil Collection, Houston, Gift of Dale Wilhelm and James Schmidt

 

Isaac Julien short film featuring footage of protests around the death of Colin Roach

Isaac Julien

Who Killed Colin Roach?, 1983

color/sound

duration: 34'38"

B. Wurtz sculpture of bent metal in cement with one side elevated on wood block

B. Wurtz

Who is Rich and Who is Poor, 1985

wood, cement, metal

11 x 7 1/4 x 18 inches

Ronald Jones geometrical design on paper

Ronald Jones
untitled (International Maritime Code - four works), 1986
gouache on silver paper
10.25 × 6 inches each
26 × 15 cm each

Jennifer Bolande cast porcelain in crown shape

Jennifer Bolande
Milk Crown, 1987
Cast porcelain
2 x 7 inches diameter 
5.08 x 17.78 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Magenta Plains
Photo credit: Annik Wetter

Jim Shaw psychedelic work on paper

Jim Shaw
Everything Must Go, 1989
Gouache on paper
17 x 14 inches
43.18 x 35.56 cm
 

Gary Simmons installation of 6 KKK costumes on a rack

Gary Simmons
Six - X, 1989
Mixed media
56 x 72 x 16 inches
142.2 x 182.9 x 40.6 cm
(MP# GS-gsb-2)
Courtesy of Musée Léon Dierx

Marlene McCarty heat transfer text on canvas

Marlene McCarty
Untitled (PUSSY), Unititled (BEAVER), Untitled (CUNT), 1990
Heat transfer on canvas
48 x 48 inches (each)
121 x 121 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co

 

Fred Wilson installation with wax sculpture of a youth's head in vitrine with wall label

Fred Wilson
The Last Murdered Black Youth, 1990
wax head, mid-twentieth century in a wood and glass vitrine with a descriptive label
Work was part of a larger installation entitled "The Other Museum"
Courtesy of the artist 
 

Carroll Dunham mixed media painting of red figure

Carroll Dunham
Red Studies Itself, 1994
Mixed media on linen
76 X 96 inches
193.04 x 243.84 cm
Copyright Carroll Dunham
Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

Olaf Breuning photograph of a toy car inside an apple

Olaf Breuning
Mutter Natur (Table Studies), 1995
C-Print
32 x 39 inches
80 x 100 cm
Edition of 3, 2AP's

David Maljkovic painting of three paintings with speech bubbles

David Maljkovic
Three White Paintings, 1998
oil on canvas
27.5 x 31.5 inches
70 x 80cm

Catherine Sullivan film

Catherine Sullivan

The Chirologic Remedy, 1999

color/sound

27 minutes

Andre Butzer abstract painting

André Butzer
Friedens-Siemens I, 2000
Acrylic and Lacquer on Canvas
90.5 × 64.9 inches
230 × 165 cm
Stavros & Christian Efremidis Collection

T.J. Wilcox photograph of nude figure with statue

T. J. Wilcox
Photograph of the film “Hadrian and Antinous” (iii), 2000
r-print
16 x 20 inches
40.64 x 50.8 cm
Edition of 10
Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

Eric Wesley wooden sculpture of donkey

Eric Wesley
Kickin’ Ass (Model), 2000
wood, metal, cement
26 x 22 1/4 x 23 3/4 inches
66 x 56.5 x 60.3 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Bortolami Gallery

 

Andy Hope 1930 sculpture of wooden frieze with figurines

Andy Hope 1930
Babylon V, 2001
Action figures, wood, gold bronze
17 x 49 x 5 inches
43 x 125 x 13 cm
Courtesy of the artist

Oliver Laric mural of text "TRUST"

Oliver Laric
“Trust”, 2002
Latex paint on concrete 
Vienna
 

Paulina Olowska painting of 3 figures

Paulina Olowska
The Great Gatsby, 2002
Oil on canvas
16 x 14 inches
40.6 x 35.6 cm

 

Sterling Ruby collage of tank over quilt

Sterling Ruby
QUILT. D-294.660, 2004
Collage on paper
10 3/4 x 10 3/4 inches
27.3 x 27.3 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Sprüth Magers

Camille Henrot film

Camille Henrot
Deep Inside, 2005
Video, felt tip on film, 7'
Music by Benjamin Morando
Song written by Nicolas Ker & Camille Henrot
 

Trevor Paglen photograph of unmarked military site

Trevor Paglen
Unmarked 737s; Tonopah Test Range, NV; Distance - 18 miles; 12:36 pm, 2006
C-print
30 x 36 inches
76.2 x 91.4 cm
Edition of 5, 2 AP

 

Sarah VanDerBeek print of collage

Sara VanDerBeek

One of Only Two, 2006

digital c-print

20 x 16 inches

Claire Fontaine iinstallation of wooden bricks covered in digital prints

Claire Fontaine
Equivalent (VIII), 2007
120 firebricks and folded digital prints on archival paper. 
L 1780 x W. 660 x D. 110
Edition of 1, 1 AP
Courtesy of Studio Claire Fontaine, Palermo

Judith Hopf ceramic vessels with faces

Judith Hopf
Erschöpfte Vases  (Exhausted Vase), 2009
pottery, lacquer
 

Nina Beier framed garment wall piece

Nina Beier
Portrait Mode, 2011
Found garments
57 7/8 x 47 3/4 inches
147 x 121.3 cm

Alexandre Singh installation of arranged framed inkjet prints

Alexandre Singh
Assembly Instructions: The Pledge: Michel Gondry, 2012
Thirty-seven framed inkjet ultrachrome archival prints and dotted pencil lines
Dimension variable

Cui Jie painting of abstracted footbridge

Cui Jie
Shuangjing’s Footbridge, 2014
Oil on canvas
60 x 79 inches
150 x 200cm

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