Heralding a ‘New Wave,’ a Gallery Opens in Cooper Union’s New Academic Building

From first to last: Gallery exterior, Nikki Milavec, Karen Hakimi, cafe, and art.

The New Museum recently announced a spin-off gallery at 231 Bowery, and now a pair of pop-up curators have opened the strip’s latest – just a little above the Bowery, actually, in the iconic Cooper Union New Academic Building at 41 Cooper Square. The Milavec Hakimi Gallery opened with a group show, “Hello World!” last Thursday. In two or three weeks, it will be joined by an adjacent cafe selling espresso, pastries, and tea.

The gallery’s founders, Nikki Milavec and Karen Hakimi, both 29, previously worked together at a pop-up gallery, Volume Black (before that, Ms. Milavec, a graduate of the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London, ran another pop-up, Milavec Green, with a partner Adam Green). During the course of their two-plus years as colleagues, they decided to collaborate on a permanent space – preferably on the Bowery.

“I personally feel it’s the new wave of what’s starting,” said Ms. Milavec, who lives on the Upper East Side. “Chelsea is just too inconvenient to get to. This is central. I feel like it’s where contemporary art is going to be.”

“There’s a new energy here,” said Ms. Hakimi, who also lives uptown but hoped to be working out of 41 Cooper Square for the next five or six years. “There are a lot of young professionals, a lot of locals, a lot of creative types – architects, artists, musicians – and people who appreciate what we’re doing.” In fact, the gallery plans to stay open till 9 p.m., when the art is impressively illuminated behind the space’s slanted floor-to-ceiling windows. Last night, pedestrians stopped to gawk at the paintings from the sidewalk.

Of course, some of the artists in the neighborhood are Cooper Union students, and the gallerists, who said they visited 90 artist studios in the tri-state area over the summer, plan to take advantage of this as they seek “emerging and mid-career” talent. Ioana Manolache, a graduate of the school, will be featured in the gallery’s next show, which will have the Seinfeldian theme of “Serenity Now.”

After that, the duo plans a space-themed show featuring astronauts, rockets, comets, and maybe even a giant felted Earth ball. “We love sci-fi and we love robots,” explained Ms. Hakimi.

“We’re not going to just stick to one style,” she said. “We’re going to be adventurous and see where we evolve to.”