Pioneering Williamsburg gallery Pierogi ditching nabe for up-and-coming borough of Manhattan

Moving art: Pierogi Gallery owners Joe Amrhein and Susan Swenson are about to kick off their final exhibitions before moving to a space in Manhattan.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Williamsburg is now so mainstream, art galleries are fleeing to Manhattan for an edgy alternative!

The owners of iconic N. Ninth Street gallery Pierogi are ditching their digs of 22 years in favor of the up-and-coming borough across the river, because many critics and culture vultures no longer visit their once-hip ’hood these days.

“Over the years, it’s slowly been a situation where the audience has been focused more in different areas than Williamsburg,” said Joe Amrhein, who first opened Pierogi with his wife Susan Swenson in 1994, and will close its doors early next month. “For the sake of the artists and the shows we curate, we wanted to be more available to that audience.”

When they first opened Pierogi between Driggs and Bedford avenues, Williamsburg was a bohemian haven and up-and-coming nexus for galleries and music venues, thanks to an influx of cash-strapped creative types who could no longer afford to live or work in Manhattan, said Amrhein.

But as studios and punk clubs gave way to luxury apartments, offices, and hotels — accompanied by skyrocketing rents — the artist community has gone elsewhere, he says.

“It’s not really an artist community anymore,” said Amrhein. “A lot of artists, since the early 2000s, have started moving out because of rent and the availability of space.”

Now Manhattan’s Lower East Side is once again the place to be, said Amrhein — and he couldn’t be more thrilled to be getting in on the ground floor.

“It has become a more interesting location for galleries that take chances and are interesting in that sense,” he said. “And to be a part of that is really wonderful.”

Pierogi’s final exhibitions — the text-based, geometric paintings of John Phillip Abbott and the winding sculptures of Michael Ballou, also one of the gallery’s first exhibitions in 1994 — will kick off on Jan. 8 and run through Feb. 7.

But Amrhein and Swenson aren’t giving up on Williamsburg — they will keep Pierogi’s neighboring gallery the Boiler, which they used for larger installations such as human hamster wheels, on N. 14th Street.

Michael Ballou and John Phillip Abbott at Pierogi [177 N. Ninth Street between Driggs and Bedford Avenues, (718) 599–2144, www.pierogi2000.com]. Thursdays through Sundays at noon–6 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobbs@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.

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