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Model Behavior

Culture Watch

As Ford ventures into the art biz, it's keeping the models and the artists on opposite sides of the runway -- BY Rachel Wolff

First Cartier then Prada, then Louis Vuitton, now, Ford Models. This year, the mega-agency became the latest household fashion name to throw its weight (not to mention considerable funds) behind contemporary art. FordPROJECT, a two-floor 57th Street penthouse gallery in Manhattan, is the brainchild of Guerman Aliev, chairman of the board at Ford's parent company Altpoint Capital Partners and an arts patron in his own right. But instead of veering toward the obvious (fashion photography, art by models, art on models, etc.), fordPROJECT is seeking to establish itself as an independent voice with a lineup of original avant-garde programming brought to you by some of the hottest artists and curators working internationally.

"I feel it's important for us to stay away from that art/fashion crossover, at least for the time being," says Tim Goossens, fordPROJECT creative director. He previously served on the curatorial staff at MoMA's outer-borough alternative space, P.S.1. "We want to surprise people and prove that, indeed, Ford can do something else. Something other than fashion."

The space (which was previously a private residence) underwent some white-cube-ification by Rafael de Cardenas of Architecture at Large before the gallery opened to the public in January. But it still bears remnants of its original 1920s d├ęcor including a dramatic winding staircase and architectural details that Goossens describes as very "Batman meets Art Deco."

It's a commercial gallery (meaning everything on view is for sale), but it won't necessarily function like one-at least not in the traditional sense. Goossens says he and his staff have resisted building a permanent roster of artists to allow for more flexibility. Goossens also sees this as a way to set themselves apart from the competition.

"The galleries on 57th Street and uptown are definitely more blue chip and more traditional," Goossens says. "Whereas our focus is on showing both emerging and established artists to create a dialogue. For that reason alone, I think we're going to be a nice voice in the neighborhood."

The space launched with a series of group exhibitions curated by the likes of the Belgrade-born Parisian curator Lara Pan and writer/curator/art world man-about-town Neville Wakefield and featuring artists such as Eleanor Antin, Henry Darger Robert Lazzarini, Gretchen Ryan and Kenny Scharf.

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