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The ‘J’ majors in art

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Here today, on the wall tomorrow.

In an era of gimmicky real-estate marketing and artist-fueled gentrification, one DUMBO developer may have hit on the next big thing: a juried art show where the judges are condo buyers, the finalists came to the neighborhood when it was still cheap, and the winners are guaranteed some highly visible inches on the walls of the residential towers that are swallowing up once-edgy areas like the neighborhood under the Manhattan Bridge.

“It’s surreal, but completely fitting,” explained artist Jamie Walker, one of 13 finalists who competed in “J Condo” developer David Kremer’s “Project DUMBO” competition.

Walker has spent the last decade painting large, Jasper Johns-influenced paintings in a loft a stone’s throw from the 33-story “J” now in its final stages of construction at Jay and Front streets.

“It’s strange to see the huge space for living being decorated with [local art] when so many of my artists friends have had to move away from this neighborho­od,” she said. “but at the same time this is a great time to be here, as an artist, because the new residents mean an audience for our work.”

Walker said she felt “honored” to be part of such a democratic project/

All condo buyers had the opportunity to have a say in what art will hang in the lobby, lounge and playroom — and more than half of the future J residents took advantage of that opportunity (and the freely flowing Chardonnay).

“This is the biggest investment many of our buyers have ever made,” Kremer said, “and of course, they want to help decide what goes on the walls.”

Kremer hopes Project DUMBO ignites more collaboration between the neighborhood’s artists and the developers.

He came up with the idea for the communal interior design project after a local artist, Pasqualina Azzarello, who took it upon herself to paint a 1,000-foot mural along the project’s perimeter last year.

“We want to show our commitment to this neighborhood — what it has been and what it will be,” he said.

Judging from the crowd that came out to the Project DUMBO show, the neighborhood’s future will indeed be different from its hipster past. The work that will end up decorating the J will be more MOMA than Met, with a pop-influenced, psychedelic oil canvas occupying a prime place in the lobby, a mosaic-like vellum print by painter Annette Rusin (who once sublet a studio from Norman Mailer’s daughter, Maggie!) in the lounge and Eleanora Kupencow’s wild, abstract depiction of purple-skinned dancers and royal blue dogs in the playroom.

Jenny Hankwitz, whose “Horizontal Splash Pink” will hang in the lobby, thanked the “J” buyers for voting her in — which saved her the cost of moving the heavy piece somewhere more distant.

“I’ve already lost one mover,” she said.

Updated 4:28 pm, July 9, 2018
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