Exhibitions News USA

New Jersey storage king expands his art centre empire

Mana Contemporary is looking to open branches of its artist studios and exhibition spaces in London and Los Angeles

Mana Contemporary's main "campus" in Jersey City

Mana Contemporary, the 1.5m sq. ft industrial art complex in Jersey City, is expanding its empire this year, with branches planned for London and Los Angeles. The Israeli-born entrepreneur Moishe Mana opened the New Jersey art centre as a storage facility for the moving company he founded in 1983. He has since reinvented the space as a citadel-scale venue, staging 30 shows a year and housing 120 artist studios, as well as high-tech storage for collectors and galleries.

This spring, Mana plans to open a street-art museum in another three-building property near the Holland Tunnel. It will have “the same curatorial vision and management” as the main art centre, which is headed by the artist and chief executive Eugene Lemay, says Mana’s vice president for strategy, Shai Baitel. The painter and graffiti artist Barry McGee is among those in talks to take part in the museum’s inaugural show.

Also in the works for Jersey City is a hotel, a Richard Meier-designed sculpture park and a 1,000-seat theatre. On the main “campus”, as Mana calls it, the company is adding around 100 new art studios this year toward its ultimate goal of 400. Demand for studios is high, a spokeswoman says, and there is a waiting list of at least 80 artists. Mana is also in the process of inviting 36 international galleries to open year-long outposts on the building’s ground floor (with the possibility to renew for a second year). Eight have signed on so far, including Barcelona’s Sala Gaspar.

“It’s so that they can explore local collectors and institutions, and visitors who come to see our exhibitions can also purchase art from the dealers and from the artists’ studios,” Baitel says.

The company is also rapidly expanding its national and international reach. In September, it opened Mana Contemporary Chicago and, in December, debuted Mana Wynwood in Miami. It expects to announce a Los Angeles location in the fall and is also scouting industrial property in the Tooting section of South London.

“We are looking for large industrial buildings that we can transform into gallery spaces and studios at the same standard as Jersey City’s”, Baitel says. “We are a very large art community and also the largest collection manager, so we’re looking to expand to places with important galleries and solid collectors.”

Clarification: The Barcelona gallery Sala Gaspar is coming to Mana, not Galeria Joan Gaspar, as we originally reported.

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