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Curator opens new gallery in Newburgh
“Why in the world are you opening a brick-and-mortar gallery in Newburgh? You’re insane and reckless.”
Eva Zanardi says she heard many variations of that judgment last year when she made her plans known. Soon, the doubters will be able to see for themselves, as Visitor Center, her contemporary art gallery, will open on Saturday (Oct. 9) with Sound Mirror, an exhibit of work by Audra Wolowiec.
Zanardi, who is a native of Padua in northern Italy, builds and manages collections for international estates, foundations and collectors. She was formerly the head of communications for the Italian Cultural Institute in Manhattan and manager and director of the GR Gallery in the Bowery.
She envisions her gallery as a showplace for therapeutic and healing art. “Our goal is to create a bridge through pandemic suffering by being able to bring peace and calm and happiness,” she explains.
Her plan is to present artists who work in diverse media and forms, including painting, sculpture, mixed media, sound, video and virtual reality. The gallery, which occupies 2,000 square feet of a building rented by Zanardi and her husband, Stephan Jay-Rayon, is located on the ground floor. One flight up is the U.S. workshop of Hysteric Glamour, a Japanese streetwear company for which her husband is the design director.
The building also includes an apartment that Zanardi plans to offer to artists for two-week residencies, beginning in March.
Zanardi moved to Milan as a young woman, then followed a boyfriend to Tokyo before also coming to New York for love. She also fell for the U.S. and decided to stay, finding work at the cultural institute.
When the pandemic shutdown began, she and her husband “needed a change of pace. Friends always talked about Newburgh and how there was such a strong feeling of neighborhood, which I never had in Manhattan.” They moved in October 2020.
“Newburgh is a diamond in the rough: beautiful, but not completely gentrified and polished, with some grit left, in a good way,” Zanardi says of her new home. “It gets bad PR, and I want to flip that script. The Newburgh thing is happening. It’s such a vibrant city with so much spirit.”
Of her gallery space, Zanardi is clearly infatuated. “I’d been thinking of creating a little haven for artists, where they could develop a practice,” she says. “The gallery has these huge, beautiful windows that are curved and come to a point. It feels cozy and luminous.”
She decided to call it Visitor Center because “it’s a space where people come and visit. The artist is the feature. On my end, I am willing to cut my commission to a bare minimum. I want the artists to thrive and I don’t want them exploited.”
Zanardi met Wolowiec in Newburgh, and says she was “spellbound by her work. There is a comforting feeling in their permanence; instead of a wobbly or porous surface, they exude a sturdiness. They suggest sound, but there is an absence of sound which brings a sense of serenity.
“I also respond to her patterns, which we’re inclined to recognize in nature because they give us a sense of safety in repetition, of calm. I tend to look for serenity and peace [in artwork]. Maybe it’s because I get so excited about everything so I wind up yearning to bring myself down. But, I love art that is disturbing, as well, and I will enrich my roster with artists whose work is provoking.”
Visitor Center, located at 233 Liberty St. in Newburgh, will host an opening reception for Sound Mirror from 4 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 9, with COVID-19 guidelines in place. The show will run through Nov. 26. The gallery will be open from 1 to 5 p.m., Thursday to Saturday, or by appointment. See visitorcenter.space or call 212-228-8965.