Gallery Guide

I started this blog with the intention of NOT focusing on SoHo’s gallery scene, as this topic has been covered elsewhere, but this post will be the exception.  Of all the galleries in SoHo, the two that drew my interest the most, as an eight year old, were Let There Be Neon and the Museum of Holography.  Granted, they were not really galleries in the Shafrazzi-Boone-Castelli sense.  But galleries they were, nonetheless.

Let There Be Neon, which is now on White Street in Tribeca, was on West Broadway near Prince where the Flats Fixed gallery once was.  Founded by Rudi Stern (who deserves a post of his own), the gallery was there for ages and ages, its cavernous interiors lit by glass tubes filled with glowing gas that twisted and turned to make multi-colored images and signs.  A brightly lit outline of a seated dog would sit under a vintage “parking” sign from an old lot.  The pieces made me want to look away for their garishness but also stare for their novelty.  I remember every time I walked out of the gallery into daylight I felt as if I were coming out of a dream into reality, like I needed a few minutes to wake up.

Vintage Hologram (photo: Jeff Allen)

The Museum of Holography, on the other hand, was more like experiencing hyper-reality.  It was located at the end of Mercer Street (well, actually the beginning, if you go by street addresses) near Pearl Paint, and I’m not sure if I ever saw anyone go in there.  Holography is, according to a December 1976 New York Times article about the museum, “a form of picture-taking that uses no camera but harnesses laser beams to make images that are seen in three dimensions with startling clarity.”  You’d go in there and see something that at first looked two-dimensional, and then you’d get closer to see a three-dimensional ghostly woman standing in a box.  Weird.  A whole museum devoted to this stuff.  It seemed gimmicky and faddish to me, even as a child, but the museum held on until 1992, when it closed due to lack of funding.

Let There Be Neon and the Museum of Holography, along with The Earth Room, a room full of soil on Wooster Street that is still around, and Think Big, which was a boutique that sold way oversized everything.  These were the “galleries” I liked most as a child.  Something fun to look at, eye candy for the eight year old.  What would be their equivalents today?  I don’t think there are any, unless you count the six packs at Hollister and the Botox at Cipriani.  Something to see, yes, but fun to look at?  Depends who you as, I guess.

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16 Responses to “Gallery Guide”

  1. Bowery Boy Says:

    “I’m not sure if I ever saw anyone go in there.” I did!, but I guess you didn’t see me. I think I was still in school at the time, so it must have been in the early ’80s. I remember it being kinda cool in a P.T. Barnum sort of way – more humbug than art. Still, the neighborhood was better with it than without it, but there are too many things you can say that about when it comes to soho.

  2. Alex in NYC Says:

    Around the same era I was toiling at 55 Mercer Street Gallery (early 90s), a friend of mine from college scored a gig at the Museum of Holography (just down the block). As such, I would frequently pop in there and she and I would go to Little Arf n’ Annie for snacks. Long, long time ago.

  3. MacLeod Says:

    You said it Yuki! Those were hot spots from a kid perspective. And thanks for mentioning “Think Big,” I loved that place!

  4. Alex in NYC Says:

    Little Arf n’ Annie was a somewhat grungey deli/pet supply store on Broome Street between Mercer and Greene. It’s a high-end furniture joint today, I believe. In any case, circa 1990-1991, it was the most convenient place around to procure a tuna sandwich and a coke.

    • Yukie Says:

      Oh yeah. One stop shopping for people AND pet food. I wonder why that concept didn’t catch on…

    • wskocpol504 Says:

      We are looking for Trish Earley, who at some point was affiliated (owned, managed, worked at?) Lil’ Arf n’ Annie. She was our bridesmaid almost 50 years ago, in East Lansing, Michigan. contact skocpol at bu dot edu .

  5. Bethsheba Says:

    I loved going to both of those places. I remember Let There Be Neon being such a fun place to walk through. The interior was bright white which illuminated the Neon made the gallery glow. A fun place for a kid. Trying to remember some of my favorites…. Pink flamingos and a cactus are all that come to mind right now.

    How about Barone, I think it was across the street from LTBN ? DId anyone elce go there while the adults were at the Art openings? I recall they were very friendly to us kids and I often went in and played with the make-up. Loving jewels that would be glued to our faces. The hearts were my favorite.

  6. Rebecca Says:

    I went to the Museum of Holography as a child! My brother Dan was obsessed with holography and so my grandmother, who lived on the Upper West Side, took Dan and me downtown- – by bus. I remember feeling like I was in some other world, both in the Museum and on the street. Must’ve been 1983 or 85-ish. Thanks for a great post.

  7. SoHo Memory Quiz Answers Part III | The SoHo Memory Project Says:

    […] Let There Be Neon, now on White Street in Tribeca, was originally on West Broadway near Prince where the Flats Fixed gallery once was.  Founded by Rudi Stern (who deserves a post of his own), the gallery was there for ages and ages, its cavernous interiors lit by glass tubes filled with glowing gas that twisted and turned to make multi-colored images and signs. Read my post on Let There Be Neon and The Museum of Holography (Gallery Guide) here. […]

  8. Elizabeth Says:

    My mother bought a neon lipstick from Let There Be Neon. I also remember Barone. I think it was on the same block as Harriet Love. Went in there all the time when I was around thirteen, playing around with all the glittery make-up. I loved the blue roses lip gloss and pots of eye glitter. There was a clothing store nearby that sold glitter scarves and harem pants. Also remember going into little Arf n’ Annie to get cat food.

  9. John Says:

    As a British tourist, I went to the museum of Holography in 1980 or 1981, and bought some holograms etc, from the shop. I just found them in a box of bits and pieces, searched online and found you.
    And now my daughter is enjoying New York!

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