The Washington galleries that changed your idea of what art could be

The Diana Rothstein Gallery can lay claim to being part of some of Washington’s greatest blockbusters. As gallery director Diana Rothstein says, “It’s crazy what we’ve done.” Case in point: the screen prints that…

The Washington galleries that changed your idea of what art could be

The Diana Rothstein Gallery can lay claim to being part of some of Washington’s greatest blockbusters. As gallery director Diana Rothstein says, “It’s crazy what we’ve done.” Case in point: the screen prints that defined the 1990s in downtown DC and showed edgy artists like Elizabeth Hawkes, Amy Hill, and Dan Colen exhibiting for the first time.

But maybe the most legendary show Rothstein oversaw came in 1990, the year the gallery first opened. Rothstein gathered an international group of artists, as well as longtime gallery friends like Martin Roth and Fortuny Villegas. “We were at an early stage in having to deal with television,” Rothstein recalls. “So we tried to have a show that’s fully integrated into what was going on in the world at the time.”

The show’s unwieldy title: “Beam Me Up, Scotty: A Pop-Up Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.” The TV ads were weird and the artwork was often droll, and yet somehow the show sold out the inaugural year. Beams didn’t fly this year, but a few of Rothstein’s biggest shows have booked the gallery with a certain old-fashioned cache, including 1996’s Super Size Me: The Magnificent Food Edition (first filmed, of course, in Washington), 1999’s Slices of the Universe, 2004’s Hats, Flights, and Barneys, and 2008’s Anchor Stick Project.

In the 1990s, Rothstein was good at talking with the Washington media, many of whom stayed to cover the pop-up pieces she pulled out of thin air. “I’m hoping that more people get used to the fact that there is no rule book,” Rothstein says. “It doesn’t matter what news group or publication or blog came through. I can give you whatever you want at any time.

“Washington is such a great community,” she continues. “It’s full of neighborhoods full of restaurants, bar locations, movie theaters, and theaters. You can do anything. If you’re creative, there’s room for you.”

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