For the last three years, global art platform Wallplay has called 118 Orchard Street in New York City home and, in about three weeks, their now former headquarters will be torn down to make room for – you guessed it – a luxury high-rise.
But don’t fret, Wallplay’s virtual and physical world of creativity will continue to be accessible. They are moving uptown into a pop-up exhibition space in Chelsea located at 132 West 18th street. An upgrade in space, 4,000 square foot to be exact, seemed inevitable judging by the growth of Wallplay since moving into their birth place.
It was at the Orchard Street, however, that founder and CEO of Wallplay Laura O’Reilly together with her team revolutionized the role of a contemporary art gallery by merging the physical and virtual art world, while also functioning as a bridge between artists and corporate brands to develop culturally relevant projects on a massive scale.
Wallplay has collaborated with everyone from Wu-Tang by celebrating the hip-hop collective’s 20-year anniversary in 2013 with a multimedia exhibit featuring pieces inspired by the Wu, to Nike and artist Smithe One to mark the 20th anniversary of the Air Max 95.
O'Reilly explained Wallplay's mission statement to us :
"The entire model was founded on the idea that people are sick of seeing corporate advertising, but they are not sick of seeing art. Give someone an amazing experience, take them out of their element and show them something thought-provoking and compelling.
We are not trying to destroy advertising, but a lot of money is wasted in how brands try to reach audiences. They spend so much money trying to fabricate culture. I think the big mission with us is that there are so many artists who have huge followings who are in the culture and changing the world. Instead of fabricating culture, you can support culture and follow the patron model.
While we would do big brand campaigns or collaborations, part of our social mission is to be able to provide space for artists to exhibit and be seen on a larger scale. Our entire company was founded in our old location."
"The entire model was founded on the idea that people are sick of seeing corporate advertising, but they are not sick of seeing art.
Since their launch at 118 Orchard, Wallplay hosted over 40 exhibitions and 30 billboard installations reaching over one billion people. The location was a physical manifestation of Wallplay’s radical point-of-view.
There were huge digital screens, rooftop projections and billboards on the façade of the building, all tell-tale signs that Wallplay wasn’t your garden variety gallery.
"We kept people on their toes in the neighborhood, they never knew what was coming next. One week the building was bright blue with 'Lord Nermal' (ripndip's mascot) flipping off the entire Lower East Side, and the next week the building was bright yellow covered in graffiti.
I think most people in the area just kept wondering WTF is Wallplay going to do next? We love the LES and our neighbors."
To bid adieu to their beloved old stomping grounds, Wallplay held two final installations on June 30th and July 1st. They invited graffiti artists duo Mint & Serf, who are known for their raw approach to graffiti, to host what O’Reilly called a massive graffiti "exquisite corpse."
"One person starts an art piece and someone else continues, like the Surrealist Movement. We had over 30 graffitists and different artists. The building is still getting transformed.
Technically, it's no longer legal to tag on it, as it’s no longer my space but there are a lot of new tags and I am happy to see it continue to evolve.
That is what artists Mint & Serf wanted to accomplish with transforming the building with us, to create an open call for everyone to participate and the result would be a raw visual cacophony."
EXQUISITE CORPSE is a street art medley that harkens back to the '80s when graffiti covered NYC streets. 118 Orchard also brings to mind 5 Pointz, the much larger defunct graffiti mural space in Long Island City, Queens.
The installation will remain standing at 118 Orchard until demolition starts.
"The building’s owner David Escava was very supportive of Wallplay's social mission of providing a platform for artists in the community. He knew how much we loved the building and let us say goodbye to it in style.
I hear it will take a few more weeks for them to pull permits, no exact demolition date has been set yet. In the meantime, the building stands as a temporary cultural artifact, a reminder that the real New York still exists, and there are people out here who support creativity – art gives this city its magic."
"The building stands as a temporary cultural artifact, a reminder that the real New York still exists, and there are people out here who support creativity – art gives this city its magic."