It’s not immediately clear that there’s an art show happening at Von. The Bleecker Street wine bar always has art up, often the work of Charles von Herrlich, the bar’s owner. If anything, the pieces now hanging seem more eclectic, less unified, than usual. There are photo collages, street art, and a shattered mirror pressed into a rounded ceramic cone. There are no titles or names. The most obvious clue that there’s a show on is a handwritten sign saying that it continues downstairs.
“The guiding logic was that I know everyone in the show personally,” explains Emil Memon, the genial Slovenian expat who curated the show. On the Sunday night before the show—or the Monday morning, he corrects himself—he was “swept up in the big craziness of the Armory and wanted to do something more independent, more democratic.” He immediately e-mailed, texted, and called dozens of artists asking for pieces—and Charles, asking whether he could use the bar. He put the exhibition together in four days. “It wouldn’t have been possible even two years ago, without the smartphone and Facebook.”
Emil talks a lot about how technology helped him get the show together, but as he talks it becomes clear that he built his social network the old way: by hanging out in galleries and East Village bars and by being very enthusiastic about everything everyone is doing. When I ask people how they know Emil, most say “from around” with a look that says, How could you not.
An example of what around can mean. Andrew Strasser, who has an ominously lit video downstairs of himself getting hosed with Diet Coke, met Emil late one night at Vaselka while they were waiting for their checks. Later he brought Emil along as muscle in a job interview with Santos Party House. “I thought it’d help to make them wonder who this weird old guy standing there was.” Andrew says that he found out he was in the show when he saw his name on the flyer. Read More