INTEGRATING ART & TECHNOLOGY
Satellite Dish @ 60 Broad St. photo by N. London
AUDART... the story
They appeared out of nowhere, in the midst of winter '95, and set up a gallery in an abandoned Swiss bank, next to the New York Stock Exchange, bringing their computers, numerous sets of slides from favorite artists and as many lights, bolts of fabric and cans of paint as they could manage.
The bank was cold, dark and strewn with debris but within six weeks, the inaugural exhibition, "the Urban Frontier", was in place, set to open to the public on Thursday, February 29, 1996. Fifteen hundred people attended the event. No-one had ever been to a crowded art opening in the Wall Street area, for the simple reason that until Audart came on the scene, only one tiny gallery had existed in this highly financial district of Manhattan and it didnt have Audrey Regan and Neil London to seduce the crowds. It was, in those pioneering days, all about seduction. With only one window which faced Broad Street, clearly the busiest thoroughfare in the Wall Street district, Audart began to shock the rush hour traffic with visuals never before experienced in the land of stocks and bonds. For instance, a naked mannequin wearing a fencing helmet with a new age plastic raincoat dangling from her finger, introduced Audarts "TNT" exhibition, a collaboration of artists and couturiers from Toronto, New York and Tokyo. Soon, a speaker was installed outdoors and poets and actors performed in the window during lunch hours. A poet named Angela gave readings, often languishing across a silver settee, in her seafoam green mermaid costume. Audart was capturing the attention of the hurried and often harried corporate crowd, many who wondered if they should even stop to enjoy such a spectacle. But stop they did. Pedestrian pile-up became commonplace outside Audart.
Inside the gallery, fifteen rooms of art awaited anyone who ventured inside and a coffee bar and interesting blends of electronic and pop music soothed the weary office workers who came to enjoy Audart as an oasis, a place to get away from fluorescent lighting and cold corporate environments, if only just for the lunch hour.
With one exhibition always on view, Regan and London, assisted by interns, were constantly in the midst of planning the next one. Their initial efforts to get the attention of the press were quickly replaced with the challenge of sheduling interviews and, eventually, charging for closing down the gallery, whenever a television network requested interviews and filming of the labyrinthical space, with it's unusual installations and random mix of artists, for whom Audart had become an artistic domain. It would not be uncommon on any given afternoon for executives in 3 piece suits to be stepping over sleeping artists who had worked all night on their installations. No apologies were made. It wasnt necessary, for everyone understood that this was a collaborative place and opening night was but a few weeks away. Wall Street loved it.
In July of 1996, Audart curated it's first digital art exhibition, "Salute to Broad Street." Digital artists, many of them early pioneers in the medium, poured into the gallery with slides and twelve of the best were chosen. Two thousand people attended the opening, during which Audarts engineer put the exhibit up on the web, then netcast the opening live. The internet began to play a very important role for Audart, eventually leading to the live netcast of the opening of "Ten Years After: The Warhol Factory," an exhibition by seven artists of Andy Warhol's Circle. With five thousand people in attendance on February 7, 1997, including members of Andy Warhol's family, rock singers Debra Harry and Rod Stewart, writer Norman Mailer and other celebrities, it became apparent that Audrey Regan and Neil London had done something Andy Warhol himself would have been proud of, showing, for the first time, an original pop culture exhibition to the entire world, everything as it had been in the days of the "Factory", from Ultra Violet's chocolate tabletop setting to Billy Name's black and white photos of drag queens from the 1960's.
By June of their second year in operation, live theatre had been added to the menu of multimedia and interdisciplinary exhibits. Performed during the lunch hour with an open invitation to all, to bring their lunches with them, the success of theater at Audart, ensured the inclusion of live performance in what would be Audart's largest and final show, "The Art & Technology Circus," which opened on October 16, 1997.
For the circus, Audart's interior space was transformed into a virtual Land of Oz. Dancers, actors, clowns, painters, poets, sculptors, acrobats, knifethrowers, intermedia whiz kids, designers, puppeteers, technicians, all came together under wonderful fabricated tents to dazzle the corporate sponsors and the public with their talent. Surveillance cameras and wireless T-1 and DS-3 Internet connectivity transmitted images and videos of one exhibit into the space of another and to distant collaborative performance sites in Dallas, TX and Buffalo, NY. Using the technology products and expertise from an impressive list of corporate technology sponsors, the circus assumed a life of it's own, as nothing quite like it had ever been staged before and creative freedom was paramount. So many thousands of people attended the first opening/performance, that a second reception was held one month later.
In a period of just two years, Audart staged ten group exhibitions, each one building on the success of the previous one. "It wouldn't have been possible to stop us," says London, "Audart was our creative fix and we were in up to our ears and loving it. Setting up a new show was an all consuming process, where naps replaced sleep and meals were often eaten on ladders." For every new exhibition, the entire 8000 square foot space, comprised of 15 rooms, was transformed, to the extent that it bore little resemblance to any previous show. Located just a few steps from the New York Stock Exchange, Audart became a contradiction to everything it surrounded, which only added to the intrigue.
They knew from the beginning that their time on Broad Street would be limited to whatever progress the landlord could make with selling the building. "We hoped for one full year," says Audrey Regan, "And we got two. We are thrilled to have been a unique part of the redevelopment of Wall Street into a cultural neighborhood."
Over the course of the next few years, AUDART will curate art exhibitions in some of New York and Florida's most important buildings and cultural centers as well as continue to develop it's on-line introduction of those who create art, to those that love art.
Artists from around the world will be encouraged to participate in these exhibitions.
Bookmark AUDART and visit often. There's always something new.