From Toulouse-Lautrec to Milton Glaser, and from political propaganda to PBS advertisements, Rennert’s Gallery has more vintage and contemporary posters than I ever thought possible. The small auction house is also home to a vast reference library of photo archives and poster-related books, which is free and open to the public.
When I stopped by the gallery on a warm summer day, Terry Shargel, who has been with Rennert’s for thirty years, offered to take me on a tour. I could not take my eyes off the Lautrec posters, many of which sell for more than $50,000. “MoMA put on a Lautrec exhibit a few years ago,” Terry told me, “and even they admitted that our selection was better.” As we walked around, Terry gave me a helpful history lesson, pointing out vintage pieces by Cheret, Cappiello, and Mucha, a few of the pioneers of poster art. Works by these designers often cost thousands of dollars, whereas the contemporary pieces, including work by Milton Glaser, usually only sell for a couple hundred. Nina, a Manhattan Sideways writer who was with me, was especially excited to see a poster that had appeared in Roger Sterling’s office in Mad Men, as well as one that was featured in Orange is the New Black.
According to Terry, the gallery never sells reproductions: all of their posters are original, from the first printing. Most of them, she added, were never even hung up; many were sold from a printer’s overstock once people started collecting. Rennert’s mainly sells works from the 19th and 20th centuries, Terry told me, and though they have posters from all over Europe and the Americas, the majority of their items are French. In fact, she informed me the president and founder of the gallery, Jack Rennert, travels to Paris nine times in a year.
When I asked Terry what has changed in the poster market since Rennert’s opened thirty-five years ago, she sighed. “Our audience is getting old,” she told me. “Young people seem to prefer photos, even though posters are a great and inexpensive way of decorating.” But in spite of its aging customer base, the gallery is still going strong. Rennert’s holds three or four auctions each year, and for a full two weeks before each auction, customers can stop by to see all 500 posters for sale.
After the tour, I spent another half hour wandering the gallery, admiring posters for some of my favorite bands from the sixties alongside Art Nouveau masterpieces. I could not wait to come back to Rennert’s with my husband, to page through design books written by Jack Rennert himself and browse through the gallery’s unrivaled collection of posters from around the world.
Cultural exchange has been at the heart and soul at this non-profit institute since its opening in 1991, and its move to 13th street in 2000. Tenri Cultural Institute provides Japanese language classes, countless evenings of chamber music, and cultural and community-minded art shows in their gallery space. Not only do they spotlight Japanese exhibitions, there is a constant focus on a myriad of cultures. The ambience of the large gallery is always changing, project manager, Yuji Okui, told me. New York is the center of everything global, artistic, and social, Yuji explained, "that is why we chose to open this center here. It is prime territory to reach out to an international community and open the lines of cultural communication. "
The School of Visual Arts, a fine arts institute, has buildings scattered throughout Manhattan. At this particular location, however, they regularly display artwork from current and recently graduated MFA students. The MFA program has a rather "democratic" focus. We found all of the art to be accessible, both through its presentation and its inspiration, and we felt as though popular and familiar visual mediums were emphasized. Comics and infographics shared the same walls with more classical line drawings. Signage and 3D were brought to the level of high art and another room hummed with the electricity of four television monitors playing loops. Although the gallery space is small, the pieces, themselves, were charged with ready and apparent meaning due to their use of popular visual media.
The Anthroposophical Society is an organization whose main concerns are extending the scientific method into the realm of spirituality, fostering "imagination, inspiration and intuition, " and the teachings of Austrian philosopher, Rudolph Steiner. The inventory at the adjoining bookstore covers a wide array of subjects as diverse as parenting, children's literature, biodynamic farming, meditations and spiritual pursuits. It also serves as a repository for the collected works of Rudolph Steiner. The society accepts people of all creeds, denominations, and philosophies in their varied programs, study groups, and events, most of which are held in the bookstore. In addition, this location houses the Center Point Gallery. The gallery provides a staging ground for unconventional art installations and other workshops.
Today, Shareen Mitchell is a bicoastal business owner, a sought-after entrepreneur with fourteen employees and a celebrity following. But no one would have guessed it eleven years ago, when Shareen was, in her own words, “broke, in debt, and selling at a flea market. ” That flea market booth soon grew into a 7, 000 square foot vintage warehouse in LA, and within a few years, Shareen had expanded to New York City. In spite of her success, Shareen’s location on West 17th Street is one of the best-kept secrets in Manhattan. Hidden away on the second floor of an old walk-up, the only sign of its existence is a red dress hanging from the fire escape, and sometimes—like the day I visited—not even that. Fortunately, a friendly employee from the salon next door pointed me in the right direction, but if I had not been in the know, I would have missed Shareen entirely. This secret location may seem like a bad business decision, but it is actually one of the keys to Shareen’s success. Her stores have always fostered a sense of exclusivity, and Shareen told me that her warehouse, especially in the early days, was not only the hottest vintage store in LA, but also a gathering place for a society of hip young women. “It was a crazy, fun secret, ” she told me. “No one knew where they were getting their vintage. ”Because there are no dressing rooms at Shareen—women change out in the open—both store locations have the same “no boys allowed” policy. But the resemblance between Shareen’s two stores ends there. While the LA warehouse is constantly buzzing with youthful energy, the New York location has a quiet, sophisticated feel that caters to a slightly older crowd. The reason for the difference, Shareen explained, is that by 2009, many of her original customers at the LA warehouse were now young professionals living in New York City. “They told me there was nothing like Shareen in the city, ” she said, “so I decided to test the waters. ” She opened a shop in a train station parking lot on Long Island, above an auto shop. “People like Ivanka Trump would get off the train, ” she told me, laughing, “and walk into this auto shop with their dogs and babies and everything. ” But after a while, the trip to Long Island became exhausting, and Shareen decided to open a location in the city. “It was kind of a secret, ” she said. “I had no money for a sign, so I put the red dress out on the fire escape. ”Though she did not put much effort into the store’s exterior, Shareen transformed the inside. The former apartment is now an elegant retail space, filled with ornate mirrors and old-fashioned couches, and yet it still manages to feel warm and welcoming. One large room is devoted entirely to wedding dresses, while another two rooms are filled with vintage clothing of all kinds, from evening gowns to 1950s prom dresses. When I asked Shareen about the bridal section, she told me that the store is in the process of transitioning. “A lot of my clients are starting to get married, ” she told me, “but they don’t want to look like traditional brides. ” These young women, many of whom get married in unorthodox venues—upstate farms, Brooklyn lofts, and Manhattan rooftops—are looking for unique dresses that will express their personalities. Over the past few years, the demand for these “indie wedding dresses” has grown so much that Shareen predicts that the store may soon be entirely bridal. “A year ago, we were half bridal and half vintage, and now it’s more like seventy-thirty, ” Shareen told me. “We’re double-booked on the weekends with brides. ”The New York location may be transitioning into bridal wear, but Shareen insisted that the store will not abandon its vintage roots. Along with her bridal collection, which is all under $2, 000, many of the wedding dresses for sale in the store are reworked vintage. Shareen added that her collection is designed to flatter all kinds of body types, to celebrate women rather than inhibit them. She always tells her brides, “I want to see you looking beautiful, not you in a beautiful dress. ”
The third time was the charm for Mohamed Jamal, who cycled through several business ventures before settling on the perfect one. He first opened a candy store on 17th Street in 1989, which he then transformed into a juice bar, before finally arriving at the space’s current iteration: Rainbow Falafel. Mohamed used the recipes he learned at his grandmother’s knee during his childhood in Syria to create a healthy, Middle Eastern menu. “We stick to all of the old-fashioned, classic foods and never change them, ” Mohamed affirmed, adding that the freshness and preservative-free nature of everything he serves is key to his philosophy. Offerings include the eponymous falafels served in veggie-filled sandwiches and platters, as well as stuffed vine leaves, spanakopita, hummus and other spreads. Impressively, most of the spices and special ingredients are imported, such as tahini from Lebanon, olives from Greece and mango juice from Egypt. To Mohamed, who runs Rainbow Falafel alongside his wife and son, the restaurant’s prosperity is easy to explain — “We are always here and we are always happy. ”
This little urban oasis provides families and individuals acupuncture treatment for a wide range of ailments – infertility, stress, and muscular and skeletal pain. Husband and wife founding team Jill Blakeway and Noah Rubinstein have been a functional medical and media presence in the world of acupuncture for years, publishing a number of books, appearing on Bravo, CBS, The Today Show, and lecturing on the benefits of Chinese medicine.