Southtown resident Paul Calendrillo has been interested in art his entire life. But it wasn’t until recently that it became his calling.
He’s making his dream come true on Roosevelt Island with the opening of a new gallery at 507 Main Street (a Rivercross storefront). The gallery’s first show, Transmutation by Nicholas Rispoli, is running through October 5, and had an opening reception September 22.
A Dream Delayed
Calendrillo got his master’s in Philosophy from New York University but, unable to find a college teaching job, he ended up working on Wall Street for 33 years.
“I had the house, and the cars, and the kids. I educated them, and then in 2006, when the kids didn’t want to come home anymore, we moved to Chelsea.”
Then, a couple of years after the financial crash of 2008, Calendrillo’s Wall Street consultancy business slowed down, and he decided it was time to follow his dream.
During his years in Chelsea, Calendrillo had made significant contacts in the art world with several artists asking whether he would apply his marketing and sales background to their art. In 2013 he did just that – but in his own unique way.
“Everyone told me, ‘Don’t represent young artists, or artists who are not established…charge them; it’s the only way you are going to make money,’” Calendrillo recounts, smiling. “So, naturally, I decided to do the exact opposite.”
Now, three years later, Calendrillo represents 20 artists and has a waitlist of dozens. He’s also building an international reputation, and hosted his first show in Wales last January.
Calendrillo prides himself on being artist-friendly by providing favorable terms for his clients, even as his business continues to grow and more artists approach him, rather than the other way around.
Alternative Business Model
Calendrillo’s unconventional approach extends to his galleries as well. Instead of using a permanent space, Calendrillo finds vacant spaces and approaches the landlords with an offer: “Give me your vacant ugly space for free. I will make it into a gallery; and when it gets rented, I will move out.” The model has been extremely successful. His artists exhibit all over the city, including current shows in Chelsea and Tribeca.
As an Island resident, Calendrillo noticed the number of empty storefronts along Main Street and took his idea to David Kramer of Hudson Related.
Although Hudson Related didn’t give him the space for free, Calendrillo says they gave him a very nice package on a month-to-month basis. If it works out, he may just stay here – though without heat in the 507 Main Street space it will be hard to hold any winter exhibits.
Rispoli and His Art
Calendrillo says he chose the works of Nicholas Rispoli for his Island debut because he wants the people of Roosevelt Island to know that his gallery “is not just pretty art… [I] try to bring to our client base new, interesting work.”
Calendrillo first scouted Rispoli at a group show on the Lower East Side. The art’s uniqueness and strange nature caught his eye, but it was only later, when he met with Rispoli at his studio in Brooklyn and discussed his philosophy and his skill, that Calendrillo knew he had discovered someone he wanted to represent.
Calendrillo describes Rispoli’s art as pre-Socratic philosophy. These natural philosophers, called physikoi by Aristotle after the word physis (nature in Greek), believed that all phenomena had to have natural explanations, as opposed to theological ones.
“They were kind of revolutionary,” explains Calendrillo. “They believed that when you died, the soul didn’t go on, and that all there was about life is what it is now.”
In his artwork, says Calendrillo, Rispoli physically strips away the layers of beliefs and religions, leaving his figures tied only to their ego, thoughts, and logic.
Nicholas Rispoli grew up in Cleveland, with a very strict Catholic upbringing. In 2003, he moved to New York City to pursue art. Rispoli earned his master’s in figurative sculpture from the New York Academy of Art, where he concentrated on models and anatomy.
Rispoli says he moved to New York partly to escape his religious upbringing, though he remains grateful for the education he received at these [religious] institutions. Part of his art, he says, is the stripping away of layers of guilt left over from not subscribing to a god-like figure, but rather believing we are all god, or all “one piece.”
Rispoli says the show’s title reflects his own artistic journey. It’s about “starting as one thing and becoming another… [it’s] taking the idea of the divine out of the picture and accepting the spirituality of just being part of one universe… and seeing the beauty in that.”
Rispoli has been working on his figures for more than six years. They share a sad yet hopeful disposition. He believes their gaze is a crucial component, expressing a feeling of curiosity and sharing of a common humanity. Many of the figures are touching, he says, to present the connectivity, and the “holding-on to each other, just like we [in society] are all connected in the grand sense.” Rispoli hopes viewers will find a little piece of themselves in the story of each picture.
This is his first solo show in the City.
For more information, visit www.paulcalendrillo.com.