New Land Plaza: You Can’t Beat a New York Original looks at the spatial effects of the criminalization of informal markets and the contemporary repercussions this has on sidewalks and across the facades of Lower Manhattan. Over the course of the exhibit, Canal Street Research Association will attempt to “bootleg” a historic Canal Street counterfeit bust, by tracing the bust’s historical antecedents in order to understand current-day conditions. Anchored in Ming Fay’s seminal Monumental Fruit public artwork honoring street vendors, the archival and speculative research for this re-staging takes various modes: resurfacing of Fay’s proposals and artworks, creating a modular display system in collaboration with architectural collective common room, and pursuing an active intervention on Storefront’s facade. Canal Street Research Association is currently offering Storefront as ad space to mimic the increasingly frequent Lower Manhattan phenomenon that prioritizes buildings as billboards. This gesture attempts to invert the typical flow of corporate funding by redistributing any resources accrued through this experiment to support on the ground advertisers for luxury fashion houses: shanzhai luxury vendors themselves.
Canal Street has long been the epicenter of counterfeit goods in New York City—a thoroughfare cutting through historically immigrant neighborhoods that has become a destination where tourists, as well as New Yorkers, engage with a unique economy. For some time, this confluence of global trade routes has been made possible by a clandestine setup: ground-floor storefronts that operated as NYC souvenir shops up front, but held secret compartments for bootleg luxury merchandise in the back. This slippery meeting of legitimate and illegitimate, real and fake, has been a guiding line of inquiry for Canal Street Research Association, a fictional office entity set up by poetic research unit Shanzhai Lyric in 2020. “Shanzhai” is a Chinese neologism that has come to mean bootleg or fake. The concept of shanzhai offers a different mode of thinking about authorship, unsettling understandings of property, theft, and the traditional flow of economic exchange. Canal Street is one site where the embrace of shanzhai concepts has enabled informal modes of commerce to survive within an increasingly hostile environment. Canal Street Research Association employs the bootleg as a method of re-staging, and therefore more closely examining, complex urban phenomena that may be overlooked due to their unofficial or illicit nature.
About the Artists ~ Canal Street Research Association was founded in 2020 in an empty storefront on Canal Street, New York’s counterfeit epicenter. Delving into the cultural and material ecologies of the street and its long history as a site that probes the limits of ownership and authorship, the association repurposes underused real estate as spaces for gathering ephemeral histories, mapping local lore, and tracing the flows and fissures of capital. They have occupied storefronts, empty office buildings, and storage units—and are currently located in a basement under Canal Street.
The fictional office entity is operated by Shanzhai Lyric (Ming Lin and Alex Tatarsky), a poetic research and roving archival unit that take inspiration from 山寨 (shanzhai or counterfeit) goods to examine how bootlegs use mimicry, hybridity, and permutation to both revel in and reveal the artifice of global hierarchies.
Ming Fay is a New York City-based sculptor celebrated for his large-scale, life-like sculptural renditions of plants, fruits, trees, and other organic forms.Fay has exhibited internationally and has been commissioned by numerous cities to create large-scale public sculptures.
Born in Shanghai in 1943, Ming Fay grew up in Hong Kong, moving to the United States in 1961 to attend the Columbus College of Art and Design. He received a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
On the Ground
New Land Plaza: You Can’t Beat a New York Original is presented as part of On the Ground, a yearlong research project and exhibition series about New York City’s ground floor. Through a close look at the urban typology of the storefront, this expansive endeavor presents newly commissioned artistic explorations and dialogues about the heterogeneous threshold between public and private space throughout 2023. The project will unfold through three exhibitions, a radio show, an open call, a public program, and a thematic reader.
New Land Plaza: You Can’t Beat a New York Original by Canal Street Research Association. Organized by the Storefront Team. Graphic design by Estudio Herrera.
Storefront’s On the Ground program is made possible through the support of the Graham Foundation, the Ruth Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; the Storefront Circle and Storefront’s Board of Directors, members, and individual donors.
New Land Plaza: You Can’t Beat a New York Original by Canal Street Research will be on view from March 1 to May 27, 2023. An exhibition opening will be held on Wednesday, March 1st from 6-8pm with RSVP. Storefront for Art and Architecture is located at 97 Kenmare Street, NYC.