Hive Structure or Ant Farm or Habitrail?

Mana Contemporary Jersey City

The spring open house at the huge Mana Contemporary in Jersey City NJ was fascinating as always. I have gone to Mana open houses before and I always enjoy it. But it is overwhelming. Six floors plus a basement of artists studios and gallery spaces. There are art storage spaces for organizations such as ICP (International Center of Photography) the Richard Meier Model Museum of architectural models, plus a cafe, and quite a few exhibition spaces. Then there are the thousands of art lovers who come to see what is going on. All trying to get on the two elevators.

Mana describes it as:

A comprehensive and transparent creative hub, Mana offers a profound and personal approach to contemporary art. Mana’s integrated hive structure allows for a free exchange of ideas between artists and art-world luminaries. Practitioners specializing in a variety of disciplines—including painting, sculpture, photography, dance, film, sound, and performance—work alongside each other in a forward-thinking environment that fosters experimentation, collaboration, and mutual inspiration.

whatever that means…

A “hive structure” ???? I would describe it as an ant farm or a habitrail for the arts.

The place is HUGE! Hallways go on forever, there are a gazillion studios, each hallway looks like another. Each floor looks like the one above or below. Hallways lead to intersections of more hallways. Everything looks familiar and not in the good way. Before you know it you are completely and totally lost. Your eyes glaze over from over-stimulation.

exit here sign
real sign at Mana Contemporary

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You see lots of art, some good and lots not. I wonder how so many artists can afford these probably very expensive studios. Some studios are closed (Lucy Liu and David Levinthal for example), some have just opened the doors to their daily chaos and not prepared for the onslaught of art lovers. Other studios are all cleaned up and provide refreshments and are “ready for business.”

Probably the best part of the Mana open houses is the opportunity to see the various exhibits scattered around the complex.

I really enjoyed the John Chaimberlain photographs. I was familiar with his crushed scrap steel sculptures but the panoramic photographs with squashed perspective were a revelation to me.

Photo by John Chamberlain

Equally enjoyable were the Fred Sandback minimalist sculptures. Using just a few pieces of string he defines spaces and creates volumes.  I would post an image but it wouldn’t do the work justice. He has some great pieces at Dia Beacon, too.

There is a huge delightful Dan Flavin installation of colored florescent lights and a wonderful exhibition of Warhol silkscreen prints. So if the habitrail gets you down you can escape to a few wonderful exhibits. And if you aren’t near Jersey City Mana has operations in Miami and Chicago, too. Their visiting info is at: It is a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon.