Dec 042011
 

Benjamin Morris

Oxymoronic as it may sound, pop-ups are now a fixture in our local landscape. Naturally for New Orleans, our chefs and restaurateurs first blazed the pop-up trail by finding new and creative ways to promote their creations, the vanguard formed by such establishments as MV Burger popping up at Slim Goodies Diner in Uptown, BooKoo Barbecue popping up at Finn McCool’s Irish Pub in Mid-City, and down on Frenchmen Street, the taco truck formerly on Washington Square Park now popping up in the kitchen of Cafe Negril. Economically, pop-ups are brilliant: little to no overhead, the buzz surrounding their appearance a burst of free advertising, and an opportunity to cater to a hungry public with a minimum of staff or long-term maintenance costs.

But chefs take note. There’s a new game in town: the art gallery pop-up.

The Uptown PopUP Art Gallery, located at 7835 Maple Street in the former office of Latter & Blum Realtors, has been up and running since the late summer. Operated by Ro Mayer, a realtor with Latter & Blum, and Patty Barnett, an art dealer with Barnett Fine Art, the idea for the pop-up came about, Mayer says with a laugh, as a result of a conversation the two were having on Facebook. The building, which Latter & Blum continued to own, had been recently vacated, and as an artist herself, Mayer had long dreamed of putting together an impromptu show.

“I said [to Patty], I wish I had a place to just do this,” Mayer said. “And she just said to me, Ro.

Having gained custodianship of the building, the pair immediately set to work collaring friends and other artists in the area, and now, five months later, the building is a fully-functioning gallery space. The mansion dates to 1844, first built by John B Warren, a local minister, and enjoys a serious pedigree. According to Mayer’s research, the building was “often the scene of gala parties during the Civil War. The park-like grounds were known as the most beautiful in the South. The line of treetops, still running towards the Mississippi River, is just discernible from the second floor gallery today.”

But enough about the building. The collection inside ranges over the three floors of the building and includes works by a host of local artists and artisans, including Art Silverman, Chester Allen, Joan Zaslow, Todd Rojas, Mike Kilgore, Olivier Thelin, and Mayer herself. Because the pleasure of visiting the Uptown PopUP Art Gallery is taking in the art itself (as much as its context), I’ll not spoil the experience by going into details about any of the work. With one exception: Thelin’s revised ikons of New Orleans Saints as, well, saints are well worth seeking out; here Pope Tom Benson presides over three of the canonized faithful, Saints Brees, Payton, and Bush.

Mayer and Barnett’s vision for the space includes installations, events, art classes, programming, and even a potential market for its upstairs gallery, gamely called Le Grande Salon. Individual studio spaces – aka former realty offices – are currently available to rent, for any artist who might be interested. “This is my fantasy of what the building should have been all the time that I worked here,” Mayer says. “This is something that shouldn’t be able to be done.” But she also knows full well that such is the nature of the pop-up: that conditions are fluid, and one foot has to be kept on the brakes at all times, just in case. While the gallery is now into its fourth exhibition – with an opening reception planned for next Saturday, December 10 – given that the building is up for sale, for a cool $1 million, there are no guarantees that a fifth must follow. At any moment a buyer could whisk the property right up, and then the gallery would be right back out on the street.

Asked what would happen to the gallery in that case, Mayer laughs again. “We’ll just do it all over again. Hence the name.”

More information about the Uptown PopUP Art Gallery, including details of their current exhibition, is available on their Facebook page. Mayer assures visitors to the gallery they’ll have a good time when they come; one of their sponsors for next weekend’s reception is the Lazy Magnolia brewery. If you’re in the area, why not pop over and have a look around?

Coming up: I had planned, as noted last week, to visit the Invisible Man exhibition at the McKenna Museum of African-American Art. But that’s the only problem with pop-ups – they pop up, but they also pop down. When I went to see the show, I was informed that it had actually popped over to Gris Gris Lab, which I’ll hope to visit this coming week. Elsewhere in the neighborhood, the 1718 Reading Series continues at the Columns Hotel on Tuesday, featuring novelist and professor Mark Yakich; the du Mois gallery hosts an artist’s talk by Laura d’Alessandro on Wednesday Thursday; and the Freretstivus celebration returns next Saturday as well. Until then.

Benjamin Morris is a writer and researcher whose work – poetry, fiction, plays, and essays – appears in a range of publications in the United States and Europe. Around town, he can be found catching music on Frenchmen, crawling the galleries on St Claude, playing soccer in City Park, or occasionally tending bar at the Sovereign Pub Uptown. More information about his work is available at benjaminalanmorris.com. His column appears on Sundays.

  • Jean-Paul Villere

    CORRECTION: Laura’s talk at Du Mois is actually Weds 12/7 @ 6p, not Thurs; it is a component to PhotoNOLA. Additionally, Seattle artist Don Fels will talk after her portion about his featured non-photographic series entitled “Vestiges” also at Du Mois this month.

  • Ro Mayer

    Thanks for the fab shout out, Ben.
    Please note a couple of minor corrections.
    The building does not belong to the current Latter & Blum, Inc. It belongs to a corporate entity owned and controlled by the Latter and Buckman families, former owners of Latter & Blum.
    It was actually my partner Patty Latter Barnett, who wished she had a gallery space to me on Facebook. My immediate ‘shoot from the hip’ response was to offer the idea to take over the old office building at 7835 Maple St. With Latter & Blum, Inc./ Uptown Realtors’s lease having expired and the real estate group, to whom I belong as a REALTOR of 30 + years experience, having moved to the old Talbot’s store location at the Riverbend campus of Tulane Square, formerly known as Uptown Square next to Lambeth House, the space was vacant and crying out for some extravagant creative use, at least to me.
    So Patty out in a call to the powers that be and we were shocked when we got the go ahead an hour later. But not too shocked to immediately set about making it happen to the best of our ability. We never dreamed we would get to this stage beyond our wildest dreams with Arthur Silverman as our marquee artist and Chester Allen as our marquee jeweller, plus a stunning and everchanging assortment of others. It has brought us into contact with so many creative individuals and their amazing ideas and energy. And it has introduced us to a whole new world of people interested in the arts. This is very invigorating and heady stuff. We are serioulsy enjoying the opportunity we have been given and sharing it as widely as possible while it lasts thanks to our generous building owners.
    One of our artists, Dave Fleming of Absolute Termite, is appropriately doing steel and blown glass ( from Studio Inferno) fireflies with Scot Evert, sculptor and electrician. A dozen currently bedeck our building fascade, twinkling in the night. Heck, I have even placed a commissioned watercolor called Papa’s Old Opelousas Barn, to my good friend, Sherry Manale of Winters Title. I love doing old barns and other structures out in the countryside that appear in eminent danger of fading away. They offer more to paint and it is my way of saving them before they are gone. So thanks, MIke and Sherry.
    Not surprisingly, it seems a lot of what we at UPtown PopUP do also has a real estate connection of some sort, given that all the principals have serious long term real estate connections. We continue to have a blast at our old Historic National Register mansion in the Riverbend with this oppulent burst of creativity among friends, artists and those who appreciate art.
    To join in the fun, please friend me, Ro Mayer, my partner, Patty Latter Barnett and UPtown PopUP Art Gallery and also like our page on Facebook.
    Come by and shop local for the holidays. Seek us out to show us your work for future gallery openings. Reserve the Prague Mansion for events or meetings and parties or take advantage of our knowledge and inventory to stage your properties for sale or other events. We have artists. interior decorators, caterers, beverage suppliers, florists and even a reverend on call as needed. Our calendar is filling up.
    Happy Holidays to all.
    Thanks again for the shout out, Ben.

  • Benjamin Morris

    Jean-Paul: Thanks, I’ve fixed the typo. Hope the event goes well.

    Ro: Thanks for the clarification. It’s good to have even more of the back story, and hope the opening this weekend is a blast. Sounds like a lot of fun.

    • Ro Mayer

      Welcome, Ben. As I said, thanks for the shout out and for the opprotunity to tell our story. See you this weekend.