Glass interviews the founder of the emporium of delights, Kiosk, Alisa Grifo
Kiosk was set up in 2005 on Spring Street in Soho, New York. Half museum, half store, it has since atttracted a quiet following of customers interested in meticulously sourced artefacts from around the world that reflect local traditions, beliefs and daily routine. With a revolving gallery programme, the store is curated with items from different countries every six months, and as with a museum, each object is presented with its own label of provenance. Can you tell me how the concept for Kiosk came about? Sure. I was put together with designer Ross Menuez by a mutual friend. Ross wanted to have a type of studio store in his workspace and my friend wanted me to have a shop. Ross and I got to talking and we found we had many things in common, the biggest one being collecting objects whilst travelling. So we decided to create a store around this concept where he would sell his experiments with his clothing line Salvor in store. The shop was initially called Salvor Kiosk. When Ross dropped out about eight months later we dropped Salvor from the name.
Is there an underlying similarity or conversation between the objects in the shop? Functionality, simplicity? The glue is they are all things we sincerely enjoy, appreciate or like and that each item needs to function well, have integrity, and be made in the location we are exhibiting. What is the process for sourcing the objects in the store? We take a trip and go out and look for objects. We do a considerable amount of research before the trip – anything from watching films, reading about the culture and history, to speaking to people from the location and reading old and new travel guides etc. You name it. We dive into the place. This is what we love to do and why we do what we do. It's like being a researcher and a detective. Have you encountered any particularly memorable experiences whilst sourcing for Kiosk? Well, there have been some odd moments and particularly odd eating moments. Such as when we were in Bautzen, Germany and I (being a vegetarian) was served quark [a kind of soft cheese] with linseed oil and potatoes for supper. It was so bad. My husband Marco was wearing a black turtleneck at the time and we felt wow – we are really behind the iron curtain. It was so funny. What is the history of the building that houses Kiosk? It's a run down building the landlord completely ignores and does nothing with. If it were not for our efforts and one of our nice neighbours – the cafe owners – the place would be far worse. The building was once six or so stories high, then it burnt down god only knows when to two storeys. From what I know our space was once the offices of Paper Magazine and then a tanning salon which had “activities” on the side.
What is the most frivolous item you have in your current collection? A mouth-teaching tool from Mexico, made to teach kids or dental assistants – I’m not sure which – about teeth. It is frivolous but no more frivolous than contemporary art. I like to look at it that way. Which objects in the store sum up NY living for you? The Hammock Swing – what creative person has a big enough apartment in New York for proper furniture these days? Also the Nun Calms – a nerve tonic from Germany and the the Ghandi Set – for a re-evaluation of life's priorities.
by Rowena Chiu All images courtesy Kiosk
India #2 is currently on at Kiosk until the end of August.