Sneak peek: inside Jack Shainman’s vast New York gallery

Jack Shainman’s new gallery space opens with ‘Broken Spectre’, a new film by Irish artist Richard Mosse

Inside Jack Shainman gallery in New York
The Jack Shainman gallery space in Tribeca
(Image credit: Jack Shainman)

Earlier this month (January 2024) Jack Shainman gave New York a sneak preview of its new gallery: a 20,000 sq ft space inside the landmark Clock Tower Building. 

Construction on the TriBeCa space won’t be completed until later in the year, but visitors can get a glimpse of the main exhibition hall where Broken Spectre, a new film by Irish artist Richard Mosse, is currently on display. For Shainman, it was important to open the gallery ahead of schedule to show the piece, which documents the mass deforestation of the Amazon from 2018-2022, when more than one-fifth of the original forest was destroyed. 

Switching between monochromatic and infrared film, Broken Spectre captures aerial views of eviscerated, smoke-filled forests; encounters with Indigenous communities; exquisite close-ups of flora and fauna; and disturbing documentation of people illegally deforesting the land. Shown on a 60ft-wide LED screen with a multi-channel sound field, the film creates a dream-like environment that is both breathtaking and terrifying. 

Film installation inside Jack Shainman gallery

Installation shot of Richard Mosse, Broken Spectre

(Image credit: Jack Shainman)

The impressiveness of the piece is heightened by the impressiveness of the new gallery, most of which is hidden behind black curtains and obscured by darkness for the film, but some of which – primarily the towering, cathedral-like walls and an Italian Renaissance Revival coffered ceiling – can be seen in fragments and felt in the expansive reverberation of sound. 

White pillars and grand staircase inside Jack Shainman gallery

(Image credit: Jack Shainman)

On opening night, Shainman took me upstairs for a glimpse of some of the in-progress areas of the gallery. What I saw was striking for its architectural beauty – it is, after all, an 1898 design by McKim, Mead & White – but even more so for its juxtaposition of, as Shainman tells me, ‘the contemporary with the historic’. Marble fireplaces and stucco wall decorations frame windows looking out onto lower Manhattan: its towering office blocks and monumental courthouses; the wide stretch of Lafayette leading down to Spring Street, and a never-ending throng of people moving below. 

It’s easy to see how this contrast will only be intensified by the presence of work by the artists Shainman represents, contemporary luminaries such as Kerry James Marshall, Carrie Mae Weems, Hank Willis Thomas, El Anatsui and other artists whose work examines the past and, in doing so, creates a new mirror for our present. 

The gallery has made a point of discussing the history of the building and the work it shows. The Clock Tower Building was originally the home of the New York Life Insurance Company and, as such, a poignant symbol of American capital and consumerism. ‘Ushering the American landmark into a contemporary context,’ Jack Shainman says in the opening release, ‘the gallery aspires to activate the space to platform essential ecological and Indigenous restitution.’

Film installation in dark gallery at Jack Shainman

Installation shot of Richard Mosse, Broken Spectre

(Image credit: Jack Shainman)

‘Part of the idea of being in a space like this,’ Shainman tells me, ‘is the idea of challenging the notion of how we're used to looking at art, of how art is presented.’ It’s an idea Shainman has already explored on a grand scale with The School, a 30,000-sq-ft former high school in Kinderhook, NY that he opened in 2013 to present large exhibitions from artists within and outside of his gallery roster. But this new location on 46 Lafayette is the first Jack Shainman gallery in New York City since the opening of the original in Chelsea in 1997; it’s also the space that will make Jack Shainman – like David Zwirner, Pace and Gagosian before it – a mega-gallery destination. 

Broken Spectre is on show from 12 January – 16 March 2024. The gallery will close and reopen fully in September 2024 with an expansive Nick Cave exhibition, featuring an entirely new body of work.


(Image credit: Jack Shainman)
Writer and Wallpaper* Contributing Editor

Mary Cleary is a writer based in London and New York. Previously beauty & grooming editor at Wallpaper*, she is now a contributing editor, alongside writing for various publications on all aspects of culture.