NY Fashion Week Series: Art Nails and Video Art at Vanity Projects

Rita de Alencar Pinto, the owner and curator of Vanity Projects, and I in her office with a David Ellis piece on the background

Rita de Alencar Pinto, the owner and curator of Vanity Projects, and I in her office with a David Ellis piece on the background

Rita de Alencar Pinto was working as an independent contemporary art curator in New York City in 2008 when she had a brilliant idea: to combine her passion for video art –usually an underrated, misunderstood, and difficult medium to collect- with fabulous manicures (and pedicures) executed by nail artists from all over the world.  The thing is that when you have to sit down for one hour or more to get art in your nails, you are forced to stay still and you can’t go somewhere else, so why not spend that time watching video art and immerse yourself in the world of contemporary art ? So Rita started with pop-ups and little by little expanded her concept and came and went with her nail artists to a variety of venues ranging from MoMA PS1 to the Brooklyn Museum to the NADA Art Fair.  Not surprisingly then, two months ago, she opened her nail atelier and video salon on Bowery, called “Vanity Projects”.

Rita develops a program of curated videos, each of which lasts between two and three minutes and all of which have been filmed by contemporary artists.  “Have you noticed that when you go to a museum or a gallery, people go to the projection room for like two seconds and then they leave?” Rita tells me -and I have to admit it is true, and I’m guilty as charged.  “Well, here you have the option to actually watch the videos, and you can get the wireless headsets and listen to the audio too” she said matter-of-factly.  The salon is small but such a fun place: I’m fascinated by her art collection and for example, I stumbled upon a Marilyn Minter piece in the bathroom and I’m introduced to the works of Brazilian artist Laura Lima whose piece hangs above the pedicure seats.  It turns out that Rita and I have a lot of friends and acquaintances in common, and we spent the whole hour talking non-stop. 

Meanwhile, Hana, a Japanese nail artist-in-residence who’s here from Tokyo, is diligently working on my nails.  I chose a Yayoi Kusama theme because I’m afraid of going crazy with encrusted rhinestones and other bling. In fact, I could have asked for anything and they would have done it.  In the end, I have watched about ten short videos, discussed the ins-and-outs of the art world with Rita and gotten an artistic manicure that is to last for three weeks and that has already caused sensation among friends and strangers.  

The current video exhibition that Rita curated at Vanity Projects is called “Girls, Girls, Girls” and features work by Sophie Lisa Beresford, Jen Denike, Keren Cytter, Marta Dell’Angelo, Jeesu Kim, Kristin Lucas, Tala Madani, Shana Moulton, Shannon Plumb and Eve Sussman – each exploring the humorous, intellectual, sardonic, passionate, complex, shy, serious, spiritual, neurotic, paranoid and conceited through the many characters and vignettes these artists employ, revealing glimpses into the female psyche. It runs until September 25th when a new program will be installed.