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A Watched New York Gallery Reopens with Performance Art and a Smoke-Filled Cafe

A steady line formed on Avenue A at the corner of 9th Street on Thursday night, braving a torrential downpour, all for a singular purpose: to attend the opening of “The Café.” This intriguing event marked the first show at O’Flaherty’s in nearly a year, a distinctive artist-run space known for its blend of art, experimentation, and eclectic gatherings. From its unique exhibition concepts to its makeshift eatery, O’Flaherty’s continues to defy convention and captivate the artistic scene in downtown New York.

A Multifaceted Venue

O’Flaherty’s stands apart from many other downtown New York galleries for a variety of reasons. This space isn’t confined to the role of a traditional gallery; it’s an embodiment of creativity in all its forms. While art sales and exhibitions are integral, O’Flaherty’s is renowned for creating an ambience of a perpetual party. The recent setup even includes a makeshift eatery, adding yet another dimension to its multifaceted identity. Founded by painters Jamian Juliano-Villani and Billy Grant, O’Flaherty’s has evolved into an experiment that challenges conventional artistic spaces.

Where Art Meets Performance

The latest presentation at O’Flaherty’s, titled “The Café,” took place at its new location—the former home of a theatre run by the Upright Citizens Brigade. This event not only constitutes an exhibition but also blurs the lines with performance art. Attendees can immerse themselves in art, enjoy a meal, purchase artwork, and most importantly, engage in a social experience that goes beyond the ordinary. The founders, Juliano-Villani and Grant, transformed the space into an interactive canvas where art, culture, and camaraderie intersect.

Art and Cuisine Unite

As guests entered the venue, they encountered a setup that combined artistic aesthetics with practicality. Sleek Apple monitors, flowers, and informative printouts adorned the reception desk. Yet, what unfolded inside deviated markedly from traditional gallery offerings.

Art as an Experience

The essence of “The Café” wasn’t solely centred around artworks. The seven participating artists, all of whom have a New York connection, presented an array of pieces that captivated the crowd. From established blue-chip pieces priced at $200,000 to unique sculptures and paintings, the space became a canvas for artistic innovation. Notably, artworks were not confined to traditional mediums; even a mounted TV played Cory Arcangel’s lesser-known video work, adding an interactive layer to the experience.

A Non-Conformist Spirit

O’Flaherty’s has gained attention as a reaction to the commercialization of the art world. Yet, amidst its defiance of norms, a commitment to selling art remains. Founders Juliano-Villani and Grant are earnest in their pursuit of connecting their audience with artworks that resonate, highlighting the personal ties between the artists and their creations.

A Quirky Affair

The opening night of “The Café” witnessed a gathering that exuded a distinct atmosphere. While not as chaotic as previous O’Flaherty’s events, the unique charm remained intact. Cigarette smoke, art conversations, and a sense of informality pervaded the space.

A Glimpse into the Future

As O’Flaherty’s progresses, signs of evolution are evident. Private security now stands guard to prevent overcrowding, indicative of the growth in its popularity. Artists and patrons alike grapple with the balance between maintaining exclusivity and embracing broader engagement.

An Oasis for Unconventional Creatives

Albert Samreth, an attending artist, aptly described O’Flaherty’s as a social haven for those who appreciate unapologetic eccentricity. In a landscape often defined by convention, O’Flaherty’s stands as an oasis, embracing all who seek art without boundaries.


O’Flaherty’s, with its enigmatic blend of art, performance, and social interaction, transcends the traditional gallery experience. “The Café” serves as a testament to the space’s commitment to pushing artistic boundaries while offering a space where creativity and camaraderie intertwine. As O’Flaherty’s continues to evolve, it remains a sanctuary for those who value a vibrant collision of art and culture in a city known for its innovation and unconventional spirit.

Feature Image: Guests at O’Flaherty’s “The Cafe” on August 8. 2023. Courtesy: ARTNEWS

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