EArtist Allen Hirsch thought he had finally made it when he acquired prime Soho real estate in the early 2000s. Selling millions of dollars of his paintings around the world, being on the covers of TIME and painting President Clinton were one thing, but nothing spelled financial security like owning Manhattan retail space. The benefits of a steady monthly rental income over the incertitude of the fits and starts of selling art seemed like economic Nirvana. Hirsch used his creativity to conceptualize and rent out his new space to a tenant, La Esquina, which soon become an important New York fixture downtown. He then collaborated with a new café tenant next door, Citizens of Soho, to incorporate art exhibits and cultural activities into their business. This all meant good steady rent and allowed Hirsch to pursue his art without worrying about selling it. “I simply followed my passions.” He started various projects including a book on the 17th century artist, Pieter de Hooch, a movie about his parrot and a series of paintings of the neighborhood, mainly seen though his loft window up Lafayette Street. He also invented a new gripless phone accessory called HANDL which allowed people to hold their phones like paintbrushes.
But last March 17th when Governor Cuomo issued an order to shut down all NYC restaurants due to COVID, Hirsch watched his income drop to zero overnight. “Being a landlord means you have tons of monthly expenses as well, not to mention high real estate taxes and I was left holding the bag. The City, State and Federal government was offering no relief.” Hirsch thought this closure wouldn’t be long but the weeks and months rolled by. He was forced to negotiate with his tenants who now had no income to lower their rent dramatically. There was a single PPP grant given out to restaurants in the Spring but it was given to help their employees and although they were allowed to use up to 40% for rent and other costs, this was entirely voluntary and up to the tenant. Landlords were left completely in the cold to fend for themselves.
“I guess everyone thinks they don’t have to worry about landlords- but I live month to month like many others here and invest in new projects and people, mostly freelancers so I couldn’t benefit from the PPP. The universities offered no relief either and I told my daughter I didn’t know whether I could afford to pay for her last year of college.”
New York landlords have traditionally had the upper hand against commercial tenants but this was a new dynamic where storefronts were now boarded up all over town and Hirsch was forced to make deals that didn’t even cover his expenses. “I started looking everywhere to borrow money to pay my bills-and the banks were not lending…Ironically as a landlord, I felt like a struggling artist again.”
His new tenant’s business was empty and Hirsch had the idea to collaborate with them to start a cinema in the outside dining shed featuring popular and arthouse films with dinner. It soon became a hit https://citizens.coffee/movie-night “This hearkens back to the old days in New York when artists roamed the streets and tried many creative things to get by.”
Then he had a thought: maybe it’s time to try to sell art again. Hirsch felt in this climate that selling his art may be more reliable that depending on Manhattan real estate.
He decided to use the café gallery to show his work and he has set up an exhibit of his paintings of the neighborhood which include shutdown paintings. “I watched the whole story unfold from my window upstairs, the emptiness of the city, the demonstrations… Then I watched hundreds of people roam the streets and loot all the stores around- including mine. I called 911 many times and nobody answered. Here I was in Soho, which was once one of the most secure spots on Earth and I was seeing total anarchy. I felt the whole system failed. Still, I was glued to my window and wanted to capture this unique chapter in NYC’s history in art.”
Hirsch’s work is exhibiting now in Citizens of Soho gallery at 201 Lafayette Street (@ Kenmare) for the foreseeable future in order to help support his struggling real estate business.
Allen Hirsch is an artist, entrepreneur, inventor, real estate developer and writer. His paintings have been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world. He was the subject of a recent Emmy-winning documentary, Long Live Benjamin, about his art and adventures with his monkey in Soho. His work has been featured on the covers of such publications as TIME and he painted the inaugural portrait of Bill Clinton for the National Portrait Gallery. His new cellphone accessory HANDL, is currently being launched in Staples and Target stores. As a writer, he has contributed to the NY Times and other periodicals and is working on several books.
A Message from the Editor of Art News about “The Undoing”
The HBO miniseries The Undoing drew to what many reviewers on social media found to be a disappointing conclusion last night. So it’s as good a time as any to look back on the role the Frick Collection played in the series. In an early episode, the main character, Grace Fraser, played by Nicole Kidman, meets her father, Franklin Reinhardt (Donald Sutherland) at the Frick to discuss her predicament: her husband may have murdered a fellow parent at her son’s private school. They sit on one of those ornate benches in the collection’s vast West Gallery, across from a 15th-century painting of the deposition of Christ by Gerard David. The filmmakers are clever about what you see in the background, given Grace’s cheating husband and his possible crime: Paolo Veronese’s The Choice Between Virtue and Vice. But it’s one of Reinhardt’s lines that best coordinates with the Frick Collection itself: “This is bigger than you, Grace,” he says. “Hell, it’s bigger than me.” Like Frick before him, Reinhardt is a titan of some industry or other, with an enormous apartment on Fifth Avenue. And, like Frick, he ends up (this isn’t giving away too much) averting a disaster that is considerably bigger than he is: in 1912, Frick’s wife sprained her ankle, and he had to cancel their return passage from Europe—on the Titanic. — Sarah Douglas, Editor-in-Chief
Several friends have used medicalmarijuana for some serious conditions. They felt it really helped them get through difficult times. When I saw this photo essay in WebMD, I knew I wanted to post it in DigiDame. Let’s know the facts as we get older. This could become an option for many seniors. Thank you!
Tony Hsieh was one of the biggest success stories of e-commerce with the introduction of Zappos. Because he was located in Las Vegas, he was a regular at CES every January. He made front page headlines for years in newspapers across the country. It’s difficult to believe he’s gone. Details of his death are not known. This is a developing story.
We had what seemed like a normal Thanksgiving Dinner at Barton G. We had a table away from everyone else and they treated us royally. It’s good to be older. The food and the presentations were outstanding as usual.
My 10 year old nephew, Ari Schneider, organized and hosted the thanksgiving zoom family celebration. My brother, Steve Schneider, gave the blessing. Thank you to the Schneider’s, family and friends for this wonderful tribute. The gorgeous gal with the long red hair, and the movie star next to her, are my children.
I was amazed yesterday when I was reading “CE Outlook,” a car electronics newsletter, by long-time friend, Amy Gilroy. She actually had a lead story about how many car audio parts are not being delivered to customers in the United States because they were lost at sea. Container ships from China actually lost merchandise that fell into the ocean because of stormy weather.
When I read the post, I had to call Amy to confirm the news. Yes, containers on cargo ships sometimes flip over and fall into the ocean because of very bumpy rides. The reason why I found this so astonishing is because I have questioned the safety of these containers for the 20 years that I have lived next to the Port of Miami. I have witnessed ships with containers packed so high that I thought it was impossible for them to remain intact. Look below at the photos Eliot has snapped of the cargo ships that have passed our windows several times a day. The containers are packed so high you wonder how they can stay that way. When I asked neighbors, or people who work in the area, about the safety of the containers, I was told not to worry. They are tied down so securely that nothing could ever happen.
Thank you Amy Gilroy for telling us otherwise.
Amy’s Newsletter Below
In yet another 2020 setback, “severe weather” at sea has threatened shipping containers from at least two car audio companies.
One leading supplier, speaking anonymously, confirmed that it lost a full container of car audio products on a ship called the One Aquila, out of China due for Long Beach CA earlier this month.
A second supplier, PowerBass, had been notified that its 3 containers aboard the same ship were likely damaged or lost, but later found it was spared any loss.
In early November, the One Aquila hit “severe weather,” which caused many containers on the boat to knock into one another, damaging some and causing others to fall into the sea. PowerBass was originally told by its shipping agent that its containers were likely harmed because they were located at the top of the ship. The containers were filled with PowerBass’s “Black Friday Party Packs” that consist of a subwoofer enclosure with an amplifier and wiring kit.
Orders for the Black Friday special were the largest in PowerBass’s history and it had a total of 11 containers scheduled for shipment, including three on the One Aquila, and some expected to leave on the following boat from China.
“Since we were located at the top, our agent said it could have been ours, but it turns out it was not us that went into the water. Our containers were damaged and they were able to figure that nothing inside was damaged,” said PowerBass VP Product Development and Global Marketing, Erik Harbour.
We PowerBass had went so far as to send out a notice to retailers indicating that half of its holiday promotion orders might have been lost or delayed in shipping. As of now, PowerBass expects to have full supplies of its Black Friday special for November 15. This is later than planned, but the company is grateful it has supplies in time for the holiday sales.
“It’s truly a case of ‘what can happen next this year.’ You know, you say it’s got to get better from here and then something like this happens. We were already behind the ball because of production delays and because of port congestion… The light at the end of the tunnel was our containers didn’t fall into the water. We’re going to be okay and it will get delivered. I’m just a little behind,” said Harbour.
As for the other supplier, an executive at the company chalked it up to another 2020 disaster.
About 1,400 containers are lost at sea each year. Only last year, the MS Zoe, one of the world’s largest container ships, lost a total of 270 containers in the North Sea.