|Curiosity, a sense of wonder, and the belief that anything can be art are the elements that helped make Stefan Eins into an innovative art figure in the 1970s. Born and raised in Austria, Eins came to NYC in 1967, and settled into a small storefront in Soho in 1972 when it was still a deserted manufacturing district. When art galleries began moving into the area, Eins hid his bed behind a screen, and turned his live-in studio into a D.I.Y. exhibition space. Deliberately avoiding the word “art,” Eins called the space The 3 Mercer Street Store, and exhibited low-priced works with popular appeal by himself and artist friends.
Eventually Eins abandoned the fabrication of objects in favor of ready-mades that he found in the hardware and gadget stores on nearby Canal Street. He was consistent in the things he chose to exhibit, equating the fields of science, magic, religion and art, and professing an almost naïve sense of mystery in how simple inventions could expand our powers. Among the first ready-mades he exhibited at the 3 Mercer Street Store were a crowbar and pulley. For Eins, the wonder of how this pair of primitive tools helped people move heavy objects was what transformed practical objects into art.
Eins’ openness and his firmly-held belief that anything can be art are also at the root of his most famous creative endeavor — the founding in 1978 of Fashion Moda, an art space in the South Bronx. Fashion Moda brought downtown artists to a totally different part of the city that inspired them to move in new creative directions, as well as opening the path for local “vernacular” creativity like graffiti to migrate into the art mainstream.
For more about Stefan Eins go to “Stefan Eins: The Enigma Behind 3 Mercer Street and Fashion Moda, 1970-80” at Gallery 98’s online exhibition.