Can a new art space refresh a tired downtown?

This article is part of our latest article Special section about the Museumwhich focuses on new artists, new audiences and new ways of thinking about exhibitions.

MONTICELLO, NY – Like its sister towns nestled nearby in the Catskill Mountains, everywhere there are signs of this Sullivan County cultural and economic golden age in the past.

Amidst nods to contemporary life in the town center – barbershops, sports bars, pizzerias and other casual eateries – storefronts in buildings from the 1800s are gone. The seats are empty and hotels from the 1950s borscht boom are still springing up. Many buildings have been declared fire hazard.

But a new museum featuring international artists of the 21st century could be a step towards rejuvenation when it opens May 21 on the town’s main street, Broadway.

“Museums are extremely good anchors for the revival of the main street,” said John Conway, 69, the county’s official historian. “There are gaps everywhere,” he said. “I don’t want to be too negative, but it’s really a disaster area. It’s been bad for decades.” Still, he added, “there’s a chance it’s going to be great again.”

The new non-profit art space is the latest project of the wealthy artist born in Mexico, in Brooklyn Bosco Sodi. The new art space is called Assembly. To create it from what was once a Buick dealer, Mr. Sodi worked with Mexican architect, Alberto Kalach to carve galleries out of a yellow-brick hangar-style building.

Assembly’s inaugural exhibition is dedicated to appropriate cultural, social and economic exchange, a perennial preoccupation with the arts also evident in the artist’s new solo exhibition, “What Goes Around Comes Around”, is considered an official property exhibition of the Venice Biennale. (Mr. Sodi also has an ongoing exhibition of 30 sculptures at Dallas Museum of Art until the end of July 10.)

“I really believe in the exchange of information, ideas and knowledge between people,” Mr. Sodi said recently as he toured the 23,000-square-foot space. “That’s what makes society grow.”

Mr. Sodi chose the name Assembly to emphasize his hope that this would be Monticello’s gathering place and forum. The Society will have rotating exhibitions that last year-round and offer educational and community programs. He also has plans to open a restaurant. “To be a destination, you need a place to eat,” he says with a laugh.

Mr. Sodi visited the place in the fall of 2020 while he was celebrating his 50th birthday in nearby Forestburgh, NY, where he and his wife, designer Lucia Corredor, both based in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, have a country getaway with their three teenagers and a dog, goat, and chicken ranch.

Mr. Sodi’s preoccupation with “exchange” has combined his major projects this spring with his popular arts center Casa Wabi on the Pacific Coast of the Mexican province of Oaxaca. Established in 2014, bearing the name Japanese concept of accepting the fleeting and imperfect and designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando, Casa Wabi acts as a platform with on-site art studios, exhibition spaces, and a residency program. Under the patronage of Casa Wabi, Mr. Sodi also runs an exhibition space called Santa Maria in Mexico City and an art residency program called Casa Nano in Tokyo.

Assembly’s inaugural exhibition was organized by Dakin Hart, senior curator of the Noguchi Museum in Queens, who worked with Daniela Ferretti to curate Mr. Sodi’s exhibition in Venice at Palazzo Vendramin Grimani on the Grand Canal. The building is seen in Venice to explore the city’s unique history as a center of global trade and cultural exchange.

At Monticello, the new museum’s first exhibition is also about exchange, albeit more subtly: All works of art are being rescued from the isolation of the storage bins and re-imported. into the world, where they can play their part in the marketplace of ideas. Mr. Sodi explained: “If someone believes in the power of art like I do, it would be very sad to have such powerful objects in a box. The exhibition is appropriately titled, “Uncensored”.

The organizing idea of ​​the show is to solve a problem that plagues artists, especially those who carry out large-scale works. “A lot of things come back to you in crates,” as Mr. Hart put it, “stacked in every corner of one’s studio.” ”

Mr. Sodi’s work will be displayed in the exhibition space downstairs, with some mixed media pieces resembling the one in Venice and a range of works made on commercial sacks used for the transport. Transfer Mexican dried chili.

There will also be sculptures: some in clay; others of ceramic, glazed volcanic rock; and a small depiction of one of Sodi’s most famous works of public art, “Muro,” for which Mr. Sodi created a 6-foot-high, 26-foot wall from Mexican clay in Square Park. Washington School in Manhattan – and later, the public disassembled it brick by brick – during the first year of Donald J. Trump’s presidency when “Build that wall!” became an anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican anthem at rallies nationwide.

The selection of Mr. Sodi’s work will be placed on rocks painted by Izumi Kato and the famous baker’s large vases Shiro Tsujimura. Mr. Sodi considers both artists, who mainly live in Japan, to be close friends and have been a major influence on his work.

Spanning the former auto showroom will be two additional distinct shows. More expansive is a survey of contemporary Mexican sculpture by Mr. Sodi and 16 artists, including Jose Dávila, Gabriela Galvan, Ale de la Puente, Tania Candiani, who represented Mexico at the 2015 Venice Biennale; and Mario NavarroSodi’s studio and project manager for the new museum.

In addition, there will be three large-scale productions by another close friend of Mr. Sodi, the Swiss born in Harlem. Ugo Rondinone.

“Bosco thinks about things in terms of people.” Mr. Hart said. “This first exhibition is a major social map of Bosco’s artistic life as it reflects people important to him from Mexico, Japan and New York.”

Mr Sodi’s full-year programming plan is good news for Monticello native Marina Lombardi, who runs Nesin Cultural Arts, a small performing and visual arts education program for children and youth in the area. “Our population triples to quadruple in the summer, but those of us who live here year-round want to be able to do things in our community,” Mx said. Lombardi, who uses gender-neutral pronouns.

Mx. Lombardi said the area has become much more ethnically diverse in recent times and expressed joy that Assembly will bring more artists and artworks from around the world into the community. But importantly, they added, the new museum “doesn’t just serve tourists” and will help economically disadvantaged locals and those unfamiliar with going to museums “feel like they can set foot in such a place.”

Mr. Sodi said that as soon as Casa Wabi “emerges as a space that celebrates the arts and surrounding communities,” he hopes that Monticello will also help shape his new museum. “Ultimately, art is about better understanding ourselves, the earth, other human beings. All the artists here have those elements in their work,” he said.

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