Artists Turn A Residential Tower On Flatbush Avenue Into Museum

Artists collaborate to decorate the halls of this building.

By Archana Aithal Rose October 3, 2016
"Horse" by Nathan Catlin. Photo courtesy of Miguel de Guzmán

Artistically inclined New Yorkers may be crying a river over the gradual decline of art in the city, but one gleaming high rise in Brooklyn is making sure art stays relevant and intact—at least within its walls. At 66 Rockwell Place, a residential tower of glass and steel on Flatbush Avenue, the standout amenity is the cultural experience it offers its tenants and visitors. The clichéd taupe linen floors, granite countertops and Zen gardens just weren’t going to cut it. The developer, Dermot Company, wanted to surround their tenants with art.

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So, they turned to Phong Bui, a former curatorial consultant to MoMa PS1 and editor in chief of the Brooklyn Rail art journal to carry out the creative conversion of the building’s corridors. Bui then brought in his friend, Tomas Vu Daniel, artistic director of Columbia’s LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies to help shape his vision. Vu employed seventeen current and former fellows of the Neiman Center, handing each of them a hallway to curate. Imagine, people spend thousands of dollars to put up gallery walls in their homes, but tenants at Rockwell have it all free.

Phong Bui and Tomas Vu, Archigrama I, 2016, Hallway Hijack, 15th Floor, 66 Rockwell. Courtesy of Hallway Hijack.
Phong Bui and Tomas Vu, Archigrama I, 2016, Hallway Hijack, 15th Floor, 66 Rockwell. Courtesy of Hallway Hijack.

Given license to do as they please, the artists, including Bui and Vu Daniel, covered the otherwise sterile seventy-foot corridors with art that reflects their own personal visions. The result, of course, was nothing short of magic. Calling it the Hallway Hijack, every wall was splashed with wildly schizophrenic imagery—ranging from toilets to teacups, dinosaurs with egg sandwiches, melting pigs and monochromatic horses in motion.

Of this unique endeavor Bui says, “Opportunities in New York City for young artists are very slim, almost nonexistent, because of real estate prices, economic pressure, inflation, and what not. Artists will slowly disappear if we don’t find ways to provide them with opportunities by means of housing, residencies, and grants. If New York loses all of those things, it will be very devastating.” For Nicole Maloof, whose art is up on 22nd floor, “Anywhere art can potentially put itself and give people an opportunity to think about visual culture is a win.”

On floor 33, however, Xu Wang wanted his wall art to be interactive, so he hung a box of crayons next to the couple hundred line drawings for residents and visitors to color in, or even scribble on, if so inclined. Residents are allowed to do their own art on top of the artists’ works to encourage relational aesthetics. And just like a museum, the art is not just interactive but also accessible to everybody, whether you live there or not. Check out their website for open house nights. When you do visit, make sure to bring your art supplies—you never know when the muse might strike.


Archana Aithal Rose

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Archana Aithal Rose

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Archana Aithal Rose

Archana Aithal Rose’s articles have appeared in The Times of India, CNNGo, Condé Nast Traveler and Vogue, covering such broad range of topics as fashion, art, travel, culture, celebrities, architecture and technology. In addition to writing, Archana's also known for her mad photography and cooking skills.

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