253 E. Houston St., nr. Ave. A; 212-254-4334
The mid-seventies, pre-boom spirit of collaborative, screw-the-market (because there wasn’t a thriving market), open-minded art is alive and well at Participant Inc., which is so authentic that it recently lost its space on Rivington Street, thanks to rising rents. It survived to reinvent itself in a former sex club on East Houston, where its live performances run toward the proggy folk-rock stylings of My Barbarian or the S&M kabuki of Lovett/Codagnone. With an open-submissions policy, founder Lia Gangitano likes struggling artists but is plugged in enough to wangle downtown art-celebrity guest curators such as Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons).
Best Alternative Art Space
So what exactly does “best” mean in a city with thousands of pizza joints, hundreds of celebrity masseuses, and museum-worthy concept shops on every corner? Well, in the case of this, our annual “Best of New York” roundup, there’s a heavy emphasis on what’s new or what has somehow remained virtually unheard of (until now, of course).