A small group gathered inside David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea on Saturday afternoon. Butter and Egg Road, a new traveling dining club, had organized a taste of Chelsea “on canvas and on plate”. Outside, the snow was piled up from Nemo, which prevented many people from coming, but inside the gallery it was warm, and Ivy Ackerman, Butter and Egg Road founder, and Julia Blanter, communications director, greeted us with brownies. We were joined by Mollie White, gallery manager for David Zwirner’s new location on 20th Street, which opens on Thursday.
Mollie told us the story of David Zwirner Gallery, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The little gallery that Zwirner started in Soho in 1993 has become one of the New York art scene’s major players, right up there with Gagosian. In October 2012, Zwirner opened a gallery in London and this Thursday he’ll open the new 20th street branch, which will become the first commercial art gallery to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The opening party is bound to be a fabulous event, as the new location opens with an exhibition of works by Dan Flavin and Donald Judd.
Mollie led us on a walk-through of the gallery’s current exhibits by Luc Tuymans, who is credited with bringing painting back in the ’90s, and Francis Alÿs, whose video art REEL-UNREEL, which depicts kids playing a street game where they roll a film reel across Kabul, Afghanistan, was shown at dOCUMENTA (13). The screening room was filled with mats and pillows so visitors could hang out in the gallery for as long as they wanted and enjoy the video art. The mats seemed to underline what Mollie said earlier, that David insists that his staff be very friendly to visitors, whether they plan to buy or just to appreciate the exhibits like they would in a museum, so the art is accessible to everyone, unlike at certain other Chelsea galleries that will remain unnamed.
The next stop on Butter and Egg Road’s tour was James Cohan Gallery, where we met Laura, the gallery’s sales director. She led us to the back room, where we saw Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings. In the next room we saw LeWitt’s exhibition Cut Torn Folded Ripped, which is composed of a series of maps with cutouts and papers that LeWitt tore up and then pieced together. Then we returned to the front room to take a closer look at sculptures by Shanghai-based artist Wang Xieda. Laura also showed us two paintings by Shinique Smith, who has a show opening at the gallery on Friday.
Finally, we all trudged through the snow to Txikito, where the real fun began. Butter and Egg Road had organized a wine and tapas tasting at this cozy little Basque restaurant, and by tapas tasting, I mean a full meal. What started as small plates of grilled poblano peppers, croquettes, octopus carpaccio and arugula salad with a poached egg hidden among the greens quickly turned into three whole trouts with jamón, two huge steaks and chocolate flan and almond torte. All of that was paired with two types of effervescent cider and a deliciously rich Garnacha.
But the real pleasure was getting to know Butter and Egg Road’s team and some of the sophisticated members who joined the group to share this kind of experience with like-minded people. Both Ivy and Julia are avid travelers with lots of insider tips on the best places to eat, drink, see art and get cultured. Ivy doesn’t cook, and so she’s become a restaurant expert and can tell you where to go to get exactly the type of meal you want. As we talked, she began telling me the best bars and restaurants for solo dining when you want to strike up a conversation with the people around you. That’s precisely the point of Butter and Egg Road: it takes strangers and turns them into friends over the course of a meal, a wine tasting, a tour or other activity. Butter and Egg Road organizes events ranging from tours of galleries and art fairs like Scope and Art Basel to kimchi and karaoke in Koreatown. They also organize events in Toronto (where Ivy’s from), Chicago, and Miami.
All photos © Melissa Itzkowitz for Untapped Cities. Get in touch with the author @LauraItzkowitz.