At the corner of 61st Street and Maspeth Avenue, a Polish deli buzzes with activity, not far from the one up the street or the other one down the street. Three Catholic churches serve Mass within a five-minute walk from each other. This enclave of Maspeth, like much of Maspeth, is filled with two-family homes and very few, if any, low-rise apartment buildings. Hemmed in by cemeteries, industry, the expressway, and Grand Avenue, it’s not the sort of place one expects to find an edgy art gallery. But just a stone’s throw from the 61st Street deli sits Mrs. Gallery, founded five years ago by Sara Salamone and her husband, artist Tyler Lafreniere.
In a time before the pandemic, a term that could soon be codified as Pre-COVID, one could walk by the gallery’s generous storefront windows and glance at an artwork that could go toe-to-toe with anything hanging in Chelsea. But the modest storefront is world’s away from artworld pretensions, though Salamone can talk the talk with the best in the severe world of selling art. But that’s not how she greets off-the-street visitors. She knows how to deal with clients and how to greet a neighbor.
“We are very much a mom and pop shop,” said Salamone. “We live here and we have a very quiet gallery. It’s not a bar or a restaurant. And mostly, it’s a cultural spot that we have and a kind that doesn’t really exist in Maspeth. There’s Knockdown Center, of course, but they cater very much as an event space.”
Being an arts outpost attracted the couple.
“We wanted to find a spot that was going to be much more unique and set aside from things, because we needed to find something that was affordable and a place to take care of our nine-year-old daughter who was still very young when we moved here,” she said. “The reason why we wanted to open a space in Maspeth is, one, it immediately stands aside from anything else that’s available, and, two, we also wanted to give a platform to artists who don’t have that, and some of those artists are from Queens, which is important to us.”
For her part, Salamone has worked in a number of galleries in Manhattan and Brooklyn, to say nothing of the fine art fairs, including the Armory Show and the Frieze Art Fair, all of which have been shuttered amidst the pandemic. Like most gallery owners and art dealers, she is now reimagining what a gallery space can and should be in the Post-COVID era.
Pre-COVID openings at Mrs. brought in visitors from TriBeCa to Williamsburg and, of course, Maspeth. There was an international flavor to the crowd. One could get into an argument about the writings of Jesuit priest and activist Daniel Berrigan that would segue into which of the area’s delis has the best kielbasa. There were conversations about the art on the walls as well as other must-see exhibitions. That physical manifestation of the art world is now on hold if not being completely overhauled and moved online.
There will be a time when Mrs. physical space will reopen to the public, but for now the gates are on lockdown. Business, however, continues to flow online. On May 1, the gallery announced an artist roster, which represents the first time that the gallery will be working with seven artists on a regular basis.
“Every single week we have been introducing one of the artists by doing an email blast that guides visitors to a viewing room that offers new and available artworks by the artists that are for sale,” she said. “We’ve been publishing Instagram stories that our gallery manager Sullivan Gardner beautifully produced and that highlight the artists’ practice.”
The Instagram handle for the gallery is @____mrs.____, that’s four underscores, mrs, a period, and another four underscores. The gallery’s website is mrsgallery.com. The site is perhaps the most comprehensive way to see what the gallerist and her artists are up to. At press time, a couple art fairs they had planned on participating in had just moved online, including the New Art Dealer’s Alliance’s FAIR, which can be found at ThisIsFair.org through June 21.
Much of the more recent work deals head on with the pandemic, such as former Queens Museum artist-in-residence Chris Bogia’s works made in quarantine. In one water color, a pastel kite is restrained and refracted, stuck and broken atop a black field.
“He’s really drawing from these works these feelings of being on pause and scared and, you know, we’ve all witnessed and seen many people that we care and love get sick,” said Salamone.
Salamone plans to reopen the gallery on September 12 when artist Meghan Brady’s Said + Done show is set to be hung. Meanwhile, galleries around the city are mapping out approaches to opening that range from allowing one walk-in visitor at a time to only allowing visitors in by appointment.
“We’re just looking forward to starting our programming again. The fact that we’ve announced our roster is sort of a big deal for us—a really big moment. I think next we’re gonna have to figure out what it means to reopen,” she said.
The plan will likely include a required mask policy, hand sanitizers, and a digital approach to identifying and disseminating artworks rather than a hardcopy handout.
“Hopefully when this is over, we’ll be able to host exhibitions and events back at the space and we can welcome the community, and not just Maspeth, but all of New York. We’re here for the whole city,” she said. “All are welcome and it’s free. You go to a museum, you have to pay. This is an opportunity. So please, come talk about art, learn something new, and see something different.”
Mrs. Gallery is located at 60-40 56th Drive.