a Tale of II Pop-Ups | the Library + the Party

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of visiting two alternative fashion spaces: The Library: Fashion Athenaeum and Pop tART Gallery‘s latest venture, Dope Shit.  The taste makers and pattern painters behind these different spaces share a common gift–the ability to filter the past to reintegrate the present.  Meet style shamans of Los Angeles, Shaye McKenney, the inspirational woman behind The Library, and Sebastian Hull, founder of second-hand boutique, Dope Shit.  To me, Shaye and Sebastian divine the hidden beauty of fashion.  They share the magic of style by appropriating dated or discarded fashions and channel their glamour through creating communal retail experiences dependent on collaborative participation.

The Library's mission is to provide an "alternative to capitalism" and "ideas of ownership," shifting focus "from personal possession and placing it instead on community sharing."

The Library’s mission is to provide an “alternative to capitalism” and “ideas of ownership,” shifting focus “from personal possession and placing it instead on community sharing.”  A pop-up initiative housed in donated spaces, The Library’s LA branch occupied the site of a former library off of Fairfax Ave. in West Hollywood. Photo: Sharsten.

Opening LA’s first edition of The Library last year, Shaye is an Oakland transplant whose global travels emanate her all-encompassing personal style and infiltrate the eclectic atmosphere that make the library so charming and inviting.  Housed in an actual former library in West Hollywood, The Library is a floating archive of vintage treasures.  Like a private book library, The Library provides a selection of inventory–with access to thousands of coveted collectibles–in exchange for membership.  Divided into three tiers–Bronze, Silver, and Gold Lamé– each determines the amount of merchandise to be checked out at one time.  The least expensive option is just $25 per month and awards a $180 credit, while the premium tier of $150 per month provides a $2,500 allowance.  Shaye also offers the ability to avoid trading monetary currency all together, awarding credit equal to the value of traded goods.

The Library transcends an exclusivity to only showcasing wearable items--vintage books and vinyls are also available for check-out.

The Library transcends an exclusivity to only showcasing wearable items–vintage books and vinyls are also available for check-out. Photo: Sharsten.

The Library is innovation in the industry of fashion, the phenomenon of pop-ups, and evidence of a cultural movement valuing collaborative consumption over individual ownership.  Not to mention this is an all-around genius idea in a place like LA brimming with stylists, photographers, and die-hard fashion aficionados who surely would welcome access to an amazing (and nearly unlimited) closet at the cost of “owning” an item only temporarily.  A native Angeleno myself, I can’t count the infinite number of times I’ve had to listen to a stylist friend burst into tears over the tireless task of unloading beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces to places offering a meager percentage on sales out of a desperate need to diversify options for an upcoming shoot or cash-in on their own personal wardrobes.  The Library offers an alternative to those wasted, Wasteland tears.

A mobile pop-up space since it’s initial LA inception–as well as those Shaye has helped to open in Sweden, Mexico, and San Francisco–the West Hollywood incarnation is unfortunately a vintage memory (for now at least).  Closing it’s doors last Sunday–but not without a super sale slashing 20-50% off selective merchandise–The Library is set for a temporary hiatus in Oakland with the hopes of securing a new LA location in the interim. What I did not know until reading this touching LA Weekly article profiling Shaye and the labor of love The Library has been–is the need for creative partners to help keep this space afloat and running.  A young ethereal beauty, Shaye masks an 18-year old battle with stage three lyme disease under a stoic welcoming presence, soft-spoken warmth, and refined taste for designer threads.  Ultimately, she would like to “plant the seed” she has worked tirelessly to nurture and currently seeks collaborators interested in sustaining The Library‘s LA branch in the future.  I have already pledged to help keep this place around–and one of those ways is by forging connections among a new generation of creatives dedicated to sharing style with the masses.

Sebastian started Dope Shit as a pop-up in 2012 after he had "amassed so much dope clothing [he] had to start selling it...There was no room left!"

Sebastian on display in the window at Dope Shit’s new home at Pop tART Gallery.  Photo: Sharsten.

Meet 20-year-old Sebastian Hull, self-professed “thrift addict,” native of Fargo, North Dakota, and founder of second-hand boutique Dope Shit.  Inaugurating its first semi-permanent location in Koreatown Saturday evening, Dope Shit is a repository of discarded and resurrected dope duds.  Enthralled by the “thrill of the hunt,” Sebastian has an eye “hopelessly addicted to patterns” and an uncanny ability to anticipate what his diversified clientele may be after.  Setting-up at various off-the-grid locations since early 2012, Dope Shit was initially realized as a pop-up shop appearing at flea markets and late-night dance parties all over underground and overground LA.

Scouring LA and beyond, Sebastian hand-selects the original, unique, one-of a kind pieces dangling the Dope Shit racks.  Amassing "so much dope clothing," he says he was left with no choice but to "start selling it...There was no room left!"

Scouring LA and beyond, Sebastian hand-selects the original, unique, one-of a kind pieces dangling the Dope Shit racks. Amassing “so much dope clothing,” he says he was left with no choice but to “start selling it…There was no room left!” Photo: Dope Shit.

Like Shaye, Sebastian has created a platform for sharing fashion in a communal and fun way.  If Shaye has created a fashion library, Sebastian has created a fashion party.  Dope Shit‘s current flagship is set within (and currently encompasses all) of Pop tART Gallery.  Gallery owner and founder is none other than the face of LA’s infamous Club Rhonda, the multifaceted and talented creative persona, Phyllis Navidad.  Once matte, white gallery walls are now a glossy black, paralleled by metallic silver floors throughout.  Sebastian’s sea of second-hand silhouettes are accentuated by unique accessories: oversized crystal necklaces, extravagant headpieces, and personal touches from a creative posse of designers and friends.  At the opening on Saturday, guests danced to live-dj sets and shopped while sipping cocktails from the open bar.

Both The Library and Dope Shit are pop-up spaces where personal style is found as a result of carefully curated and redirected shared resources.  These unique temporary venues pose evidence of a new cultural movement–one valuing collaboration and a sense of communal infrastructure.  There will always be a niche and market for overpriced, specialized, or run-of-the-mill designer boutiques, but these style makers spread a love of fashion beyond the superfluous guises of their counterparts.  Instead, they offer what any shopper in the post-internet age desperately needs: a feeling of authenticity and community in an age of consumer monotony and limitless selection.  Like the best intermediaries or messengers, the makers of these spaces present solutions to problems permeating the fashion industry and afflicting the greater world economy in favor of a new system favoring borrowing over buying and attainability over inhibition.

It's not too late to save The Library!
Contact The Library // 
Website: library-fashion.com // 
Email: contact.athenaeum@gmail.com // 
Like on Facebook // Follow on Instagram


Shop Dope Shit at Pop tART Gallery // 
Hours: Tuesday - Friday 11AM-7PM; Saturday 1PM-7PM //
3023 W 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90010 //
Email: dopeshitklothing@gmail.com //
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Day for Night at the New Night Gallery

A few weeks ago, after navigating clones of cubicles and browsing gallery brands at the Art Los Angeles Contemporary fair at the Barker Hangar, Arely and I ventured down the dark southern exposure of downtown to the opening of a highly anticipated after-hours….behold the new home of Night Gallery: a 6,200 square foot warehouse remastered by art space visionaire, and of Matthew Marks notoriety, architect Peter Zellner.  Acrylic window treatments by artist Yunhee Min colorize the subtle grays of the building’s unmarked, square façade.  An eclectic crowd and a few swarms of loafer-clad Bergamot gallery-goers indicate we have arrived to toast the face that is the new Night Gallery.

A giant shadow of it’s former self, previously a three-room black-walled former party-store in a Lincoln Heights strip mall, the new Night Gallery opens into a giant fortress of accented beige.  High beamed ceilings flocked with skylights allude this is a space designed for daytime viewing.  In fact, Night Gallery will no longer model their opening hours to draw the creatures of the night.  Formerly only opened Tuesdays through Saturdays 10PM-2AM, the gallery has adopted a more generic 12-7PM schedule with their relocation.  This news and a stellar article by Carol Cheh leave me fearing the same: has Night Gallery grown up?

Opening reception of the inaugural exhibition "The Mocking Hand" at the new Night Gallery.Photo: Sharsten.

Opening reception of the inaugural exhibition “The Mocking Hand” at the new Night Gallery.
Photo: Sharsten.

Night Gallery’s opt to abandon their namesake nocturnal schedule in favor or a more pedestrian friendly day operation is disappointing.  But I am hopeful.  Maybe this will inspire other venues to experiment in the social scheduling sphere–extending occasions for creative types to cultivate in the dark wee hours of the night, convening for art and not just booze or underground electro beats (though I am a fan of both alternatives).

What is most promising about the new Night Gallery is the women behind the space, Davida Nemeroff and Mieke Marple.  Nemeroff founded the original space shortly after arriving to Los Angeles in 2010, Marple joining her in 2011, with the duo announcing their decision to turn the gallery into a commercial venture thereafter.  Together, they share an ambitious vision for Night Gallery’s future programming and spatial expansion:  a four-phase plan literally moves the gallery outside-of-the-box template into a series of buildings-within-a-building structures.  Phase two, to follow, will erect a spatial replica of the former Lincoln Heights space within the new gallery; while phase three and four foretell construction of a chapel out of felt and perhaps even amass to creating social theatrical amenities like bleachers for hosting lectures, screenings, and symposiums.

Building spaces and creating new experiences within an architectural and institutional space.  That is what captivates me in hearing the future plans for Night Gallery and inspire questioning how the art gallery setting can hope to model itself in the future.  How do art spaces construct the visibilities of our individual and collective experience with art?  How do they address us physically?  How do we encounter the temporal as a condition of the spatial?

On view now in phase one is a minimal selection of work by LA artist Sean Townley.  The inaugural exhibition “The Mocking Hand” is [un]fortunately dwarfed and secondary to the architectural sublimity of the new gallery itself.  The behemoth of space in the main exhibition area alone presents the flexibility to experiment with scale, media, and relationships.  “The Mocking Hand” does little to activate the scene.  Instead, I dream of audio-visual landscapes and immersive pieces, works inviting me to the clean concrete floor, demanding me to stay and wait.  After a day at the art fair and catching an enlightening performance by Scott Benzel, I crave something a little less 2-dimensional–a total sensory experience or experiment rather than a heightened awareness of my place as viewer among these assorted, familiar, and similar forms.

Scott Benzel's performative environment "W.W.A.R./ Die Dritte Generation" (left), Photo: Sharsten; Sean Townley "Untitled" at "The Mocking Hand" (right), Photo: Night Gallery.

Scott Benzel’s performative environment “W.W.A.R./ Die Dritte Generation” (left), Photo: Sharsten; Sean Townley “Untitled” at “The Mocking Hand” (right), Photo: Night Gallery.

Perhaps the most interesting sculpture on display is in the smaller gallery adjacent to the main exhibition area.  A heavy stone mass with a brain-like protrusion is cut-out to reveal a hollow abyss beneath–I feel like I am peeking into an expensive drain or gutter as I examine what’s beneath.  Majestically lit from above, the rectangular block appears monumental and central to the subtle asymmetry of this smaller gallery.

Wandering out back into the airy space, closed doors and bare desks indicate storage and office spaces along the perimeter–the latter forming walls to enclose another space-within-a-space deemed the “private lounge area.”  Drenched in saturated blue and red lighting,  the Dario Argento-esque aesthetic coupled with the [full] bottles of booze, plush sofa, and aroma of Palo Santo draw me to wallow in this refreshingly dark, windowless cave.  It’s actually the only room reminiscent of the former Night Gallery–almost a homage to the original, compact and dimly lit lounge.  Nostalgia for the past subsides quickly, however, as I am aware there is something brewing here in this pristine new space that is much, much, bigger.  With some carefully curated finesse, and some risk-taking programs honoring it’s past as “an artist run space, for artists, by artists,” Night Gallery has the capacity to serve as a catalyst for a new generation of unorthodox art spaces and sites for institutional critique.

The private lounge at the former Night Gallery in Lincoln Heights (left), Photo: KCRW; and the current private lounge at Night Gallery's new digs (right), Photo: Sharsten.

The private lounge at the former Night Gallery in Lincoln Heights (left), Photo: KCRW; and the current private lounge at Night Gallery’s new digs (right), Photo: Sharsten.