Thursday, November 4, 2010

African Art, Etc.

It's not a good time, or place, for African art. Bangally African Art on Greenwich Avenue has closed and emptied out after a 30% off sale.

Last week

This week

The store has been run for 22 years by the Gambian-born Bangally Jagana, "a premiere collector of tribal art from Africa with a gallery nestled in the heart of Greenwich Village since 1988."

Mr. Jagana in his shop, Daily News

Further east, after losing its street-arty old newsstand for a glass box, that changing piece of Broadway between 17th and 18th has taken another step toward becoming a mini-MePa of sorts. Really more like a suburban shopping mall, as J&S Imports completed its move upstairs and off the street this summer.


Owned by brothers Jaime and Simon Debbah, J&S Imports has been on Broadway for over 40 years. At its peak in the 60s and 70s, reported the Times in 2008, J&S was "the biggest wholesale and retail dealer in town, supplying inexpensive African crafts to half the city street peddlers who sold African art."

The waning interest in African art, along with the owners' age, has moved them into the smaller space. Luckily, they own the building. While J&S is still there for folks in the know, the rest of us can't walk by anymore to see the old sign--Africa, Spain, Novelties--or the collection of art in the window.

Mr. Debbah, by Josh Weil, NY Times

Once an interesting piece of the street's visual fabric, soon it will contain another shopping mall type of store--upscale sunglasses, American Apparel, or an Origins for all your "high-performance" skincare needs? Nope, CLEAR is moving in--a "4G hot spot" Internet network something or other.

Weirdly enough, their appletini green logo matches the appletini green street furniture of the new Broadway lounge right out front, another one of Bloomberg's shopping mall-style rest areas where people talk on cell phones and drink Starbucks coffee in the rush of passing traffic.

This is what the world wants.


ish said...

Oh sad news. In the 1990s I used to go to Bangally African art all the time. Many of the wood carvings he had were far above the quality generally available. I purchased several Oshe Shangos (a ceremonial double-headed wooden axe) and Opon Ifas (a divination tray that is sort of map of the cosmos); traditional Yoruba woodcarvings used in Yoruba religion. I was initiated into the American form of Yoruba religion, Santeria, in 1996, and some pieces I got from him have dressed up my orisha shrine -- and my padrino's -- ever since.

glamma said...

thanks for the update on J&S imports, i love that place. so happy to learn that they own the building. seems to be the only line of protection for mom & pops these days.

Ken Mac said...

"this is what the world wants." How did this happen? A generation of tasteless, clueless, classless people? Heck, I am not that well educated, but why does the average person in this country fail to see the loss of beauty?
"Gimme crack and anal sex, take the only tree that's left and stick it up the hole of your culture"

ivanova said...

That's really too bad. I remember there was a kitchen goods store with kind of mean owners before Bangally art moved in, and how happy I was to see the Bangally store open. I'm glad the other African art store remains, although in a smaller space.

KSx said...

"This is what the world wants."

Yes, one big 4G hot spot with matching accents.

If only Travis Bickle's "real rain" would come and wash away all this plastic.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this article. I was just about to head to Bangally African Expo. I remember when the store was on St. Marks Place beween 2nd and 3rd Aves. Very sad.

Slr said...

people DONT "know what they want" they go & do what they are told. & follow what the other sheep do. OR does it work the other way????? you tell me. im stuck in the middle of this question. jeremiah, i think its a vicious circle to hell.

laura said...

ken, the average person is no longer a person. its a mass of toxic cells. yeah theyre on the way out..... they dont know it but i predict....later for that

Unknown said...

I almost emailed you a couple of weeks ago when I first saw the sale signs at Bangally, but when I went in and talked to him I realized it wasn't a simple "rents force a beloved biz out" story. Bengally's relocating to somewhere near Chelsea, where he will stop selling the beads and small crafts (which he's still going to wholesale from a storage space) and focus exclusively on the high-dollar artifacts that have been his main interest for some time.

He intends to take a bit of time off before opening the new place, but there didn't seem to be any uncertainty about his plan, and it didn't seem to be dictated by landlords or neighborhood trends.

I'm disappointed that he won't be in the area anymore, and I'm sure something generic will go in the spot, but at least we can be happy for Mr. Jagana's continued success.

Stolen Bike said...

This surprised me, since I usually walk by the store several times a week. I must have been walking on the other side recently because of the scaffolding. That's really too bad. What is it about that street that kills businesses?

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks jdefore--glad to hear he's still staying in business.