Up a flight of steps on a Monday afternoon, amid the bustle of construction workers and stacks of canvasses, Moshe Frank was resting on a couch surrounded by a temporary exhibit of prints from the archives of Jewish Educational Media. Images of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, together with political figures and celebrities of the 20th century, arrays of Chassidim, and scenery of Crown Heights, were arranged on the walls of one room of the Leviim Gallery. Other rooms were visible from where we sat, talking about the gallery’s mission, business model, and some of their featured artists.
I had spotted the Leviim Gallery a few months ago when it was still in its previous location, a garage on Lincoln Street near Kingston. Little crowds of canvases huddled together on the floor propped against the walls, a few easels supporting larger works. The name of the space, painted over a rainbow on a wooden board, was tacked over the decaying shingles above the garage doorway. The new location, just across the street at 271 Kingston Avenue, is the second story of a building that is flanked by a trendy kosher burger joint and a good-old bodega.
In addition to the storefront, the Leviim Gallery’s presence on Instagram (@leviim_judaica_art_gallery) is another sign of the growth of the business as well as the environment it seeks to cultivate. With well over 3,000 followers, the account posts a picture of a piece from the gallery’s inventory daily. The account is linked to the gallery’s Facebook Page, accessing yet more viewers. That accessibility is what distinguishes the Leviim Gallery from the other two Judaica galleries in Crown Heights. With prices starting at ten dollars, Frank states that the main mission of the business is to get Jewish art into Jewish homes. By offering pieces that cost much less, and by taking advantage of social media, the gallery has a startup feel that is making a convincing case of changing the fine Judaica art market.
A tour of the pieces on display for sale showed riots of colors and different media. Frank explained how he got connected to some of the artists: a neighborhood friend, a Google search, an artist’s stall at Union Square. Some works are by well-known Jewish artists with their own followings, and some artists are “exclusively featured” at the Leviim Gallery: new artists that Frank is assisting in cultivating by showing their work for the first time.
The collection is personally curated, with a guiding eye for positive depictions of Judaism. There is a conspicuous and purposeful absence of art relating to the Holocaust and other cultural wounds. The pieces are diverse scenes of Biblical events, contemporary landscapes of Israel and Crown Heights, Kabbalistic color abstractions, depictions of Chassidim, Jewish holidays, and other celebrations of Judaism and the Torah.
Ranging from small tableaus featuring minimalist styling, to stately canvases in handsome frames bearing layers of acrylics, the collection gathers together and features pieces at low- and high-end price points equally. This is Chabad Chassidus as applied to the art market: democratized, empowering, user-friendly, practical, exultant, and driven by ideals.
Check out www.leviimart.com for a comprehensive listing of their featured artists and inventory.
Follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/leviimart.
Follow on Instagram @leviim_judaica_art_gallery for insta-doses of their collection.
And visit the Leviim Gallery in real life at 271 Kingston Avenue, Brooklyn!