Nailed It: Vanity Projects Opens On Chrystie Street

Posted on: August 21st, 2013 at 10:12 am by
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[Rita Pinto’s latest nails. Photo: Lori Greenberg]There is something wonderful about discovering art in unexpected places. A nondescript doorway, the top of a scaffolding, or even a fingernail.

You heard right. Want a Lichtenstein, a Mondrian, or a Kusama on your nails? Vanity Projects, a new nail salon-cum-art gallery, will make it happen.

The brainchild of Rita de Alencar Pinto, a video curator with a degree in art business, Vanity Projects is not like any other nail salon you’ve ever been to. Beginning as a pop up installation at venues including MoMA PS1, NADA Hudson and NADA Art Fair in Miami, Vanity Projects moved to its first fixed location last month.

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[Rita Pinto of Vanity Projects. Photo: Lori Greenberg]The second floor space feels calm and gallery-like, with art videos projected on the walls (works are by Nam June Paik, Keren Cytter, Gordon Matta-Clark, Paul McCarthy, Kristin Lucas and others). Instead of stacks of People and US magazines on the tables, you can scan art books on the likes of James Turrell or Alexander McQueen.

Customers can put on a set of headphones and listen to the videos, or can talk art, nails, fashion or other topics with any of the charming and cool “nail artists-in-residence” including Natalie Minerva (Nail Swag), Mr. Luis, Britney Tokyo and Jane Weiner (That Jane Designs).

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[Photo: Lori Greenberg]Another bonus we immediately noticed: the space does not have that oh-so-familiar stinky nail salon smell, due in part to great ventilation but perhaps more significantly to the use of vegan and eco nail polishes (which are 3Free or 5Free, meaning they have fewer chemicals including no formaldehyde). The high-end brands include RGB, Deborah Lippmann and Jin Soon.

After checking out their website for inspiration, we made an appointment right away and were looking forward to getting some conversation-piece-worthy miniature art on our digits. There are many amazing designs on display to choose from, or Pinto and her artists will work with whatever concept you have in mind. They will also accommodate old-school solid color mani-pedis as well. For those who are a bit timid or work in a more corporate environment, you can try out one nail (or one on each hand) with a design or pattern and leave the rest solid. It’s a good way to get your feet (or at least your nails) wet.

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[Yayoi Kusama style nail art. One of the many sets on display. Photo: Lori Greenberg]A few days before our appointment, we (specifically, a graphic designer masquerading by day as a mild-mannered reporter) had a multitude of ideas, and trouble narrowing it all down. (So few nails, so little time?) We ultimately decided that at least one fingernail needed to flash the Bowery Boogie logo (hey, we are nothing if not team players!). An entire Bowery theme evolved from that. We pulled some of the silhouettes from the full Boogie logo (including grabbing the image of the Manhattan Bridge from the new Boogie tee shirt). Intent on turning our hands into a “digital” walk down the old school Bowery, we then added some personal inspiration including a pigeon, a Greek coffee cup and a few Keith Haring images.

Arriving at Vanity Projects for our appointment, we met with Pinto and then with our artist, Jane Weiner. While she worked on our nails, we asked Weiner the burning question: “How did you find your true calling as a nail artist?”

We found out that she had started out as an illustrator, specializing in miniatures. Pretty freaking cool. Not to mention logical.

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[Bowery themed nails. Left photo, top row: old school Bowery traffic light, Keith Haring baby, Chrysler building, pigeon. Bottom row: Greek coffee cup, Empire State building, Keith Haring barking dog, old school Bowery telephone pole. Right photo (on thumbs): Bowery Boogie elevated train logo, Bowery Boogie Mahattan Bridge logo. Photos: Lori Greenberg]We decided to test drive the new look over the weekend. Whether at the corner deli, on the street, or at a party, people were, well, flipping out. Talk about a conversation piece. The coolest part (aside from meeting Pinto and Weiner, and watching the whole process), was that every type of person approached us to ask about our nails. Even straight men were talking about nail art, much to the surprise of their girlfriends. Smart phones were taken out, photos were tweeted, and we realized that we, or at least our hands, had become a bit of a paparazzi magnet.

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[Bowery nail art, on the Bowery. Photo: Lori Greenberg]Vanity Projects is at 99 Chrystie Street, at Grand Street, 2nd floor. Call or email for appointment. Manicures start at $30. Check out their facebook page as well.

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