The Camelot that was W.i.P. is over. Stuart Braunstein, half of the creative crew in a joint centered around creativity, has split the club, leaving behind a trail of bad things to say, bitter regrets, and little else... even the art. According to Stuart, that art which has so wonderfully adorned the art-based club, is being removed today, probably as you read this. His partner Rony Rivellini remains and has been joined by man-about-town Thomas Moller. This story is moving very fast and has lots of moving parts but this is what I got in the last few days.
The core of the beef is the deteriorating relationship between W.i.P. co-owner Barry Mullineaux and Stuart. Stuart claims that "most of my days working for Barry were spent fighting for peoples’ money.” He referred to him as a "non-man" and other terms not appropriate for this family-read column. Stuart insists that he is leaving because he must continue to take the moral high ground and "will not stop doing the right thing.” One of the real sticking points was the damage to a sculpture by Adam Grant.
According to Stuart, all the art was to be insured, but management didn't live up to their end of that basic requirement and refused to compensate Adam for the loss. Adam committed suicide after the incident. Stuart would not lay that on Barry Mullineaux's door, but the implication hovers like cigarette smoke in a pre-Bloomberg nightclub.
Another question left unanswered was whether the entire art installation concept was really a sham to get an expansion of the joint at the hip Greenhouse space approved by the community board. There are lots of accusations being thrown around and this promises to get hotter before cooler heads prevail. Since cool heads are rare at Greenhouse/W.i.P. this might get ugly. But Thomas Moller is an experienced man-about-town and a gentleman and may prove capable of carrying on the Stuart Braunstein legacy.
I asked Stuart Braunstein what the heck was going on.
Stuart, what the heck is going on?
The owners of the venue have split the creative team behind W.i.P up. A disconnect between mine and the management’s vision of W.i.P has been occurring for quite some time. The original plan was to change the entire room every five to six weeks in the same manner as galleries do. The owners never supported the plan financially, putting a severe strain on my relationship with the art community. My repeated requests and proposals to execute the plan were never allowed to come to fruition either due to lack of funding or shared passion for art.
In addition, the venue never took out insurance on the work. Several pieces were damaged or destroyed without compensation to the artists. A $40k sculpture by Adam Grant, a talented young artist, was broken in December. Despite repeated requests to make some sort of restitution, none ever came. Rony Rivellini will remain on board as the principle programmer of EMD. Timmy Regisford has invested in a state-of-the-art sound system, which promises to be the best in the city. Kimyon Huggins and Andrew Lockhart, who have worked with Stuart since the beginning, put together a plan for the future of W.i.P. It was turned down.
The work that is currently in W.i.P will be removed since it was entrusted to CH Creations, not W.i.P Management. The paintings were by some of New York’s greats, Ronnie Curtone, Mike Cockgrill, Rick Prol, Walter Steding, Gaia, Dick Chicken, Spector, Kimyon Huggins, and more. There was at least $500,000 in work in the place; it had the ability to be epic. With Ben Devoe's help (an artist employed by CH Creations), I financed and built the centerpiece at W.i.P. "The OZ Project" featured a three-dimensional head upon which images were projected, blowing people away. CH Creations would have changed the way that the club and art worlds came together and a lack of any vision from WIP’s management killed that dream.
CH Creations has a new project in the works that will complete a circle from Collective Hardware to W.i.P. The last two projects were learning experiences, works in progress. The next piece will be a finished work of art. Finally, we will be working with professionals that share our common goals and artistic dreams, a first for the boys from CH Creations. We have had many forces working against our vision for so long... it’s going to feel great to have competent people on our side."
So who's running the artistic side of it in your absence?
An artist by the name of Thomas Moller, a close friend of a new manager Frank Heidinger, has taken over the creative control of WIP. His first install consists of Brillo pads in the glass display case that is the bar top, replacing the beautiful jewelry by Rachel Brown, which was taken out cause the top of the bar was leaking and would not be fixed by management. Brillo pads are a good answer for an easy fix, just like how all things are handled at WIP. It makes sense to me that this is the direction they would go. I named it Work in Progress but it should now be called NP, No Progress.
How are you taking all this?
I'm in good spirits and relieved that I don't have to deal with the small penny pinching pettiness of W.i.P management. I just finished my first feature film called Don Peyote with the folks at production company Studio 13 and a music video I directed called "Army of Slaves" for the band PUi just made it to MTV.
I'm also currently working with Randy Fields to produce a film about Nico from The Velvet Underground. I'm working with Mark Baker; he is producing monthly installs at The Liberty Theater, the first of which was The Best Little Whorehouse in NY; a new one is happening in June. I've also just constructed the Highline Zoo with Jordan Betten from Lost Art that has been getting major press. Jordan and I are planning to host performances in the zoo during weekends for all the highline visitors. I've decided to hold a Friday party. I'll be DJing with Ashley Rae Perry at Danny Kane's new spot Bishops and Barons, spinning a great mix of new and old cutting edge music for a clientele that is looking for something different.