The founders of Kiosk have taken their indie-minded approach to retail to the Institute of Contemporary Arts.
In 2005, Kiosk was created in SoHo in response to downtown Manhattan’s shift to hyper-commercialism and the beginning of massive rent hikes. It now has a long-term position inside the ICA’s entrance near the museum’s book store.
Before “discovery” and “storytelling” were buzzwords for boutiques, Alisa Grifo opened the artisically styled Kiosk at 95 Spring Street. Led only by a small makeshift sign on the street, many shoppers had that can-this-be-right feeling as they traipsed up a beaten set of stairs surrounded by graffiti-covered walls, wandered down a hallway and entered through a beaded door curtain. Looking more like an installation, than a shop, Kiosk showcased independently produced, affordable items that had been sourced from different parts of the world. “We wanted a place where people could look, learn, touch and talk about what we were showing and wax on about anything in the world,” Grifo said.
Over the years, she and her husband and business partner Marco ter Haar Romeny trekked to different countries, rooting out common but emblematic keepsakes — Icelandic candy, Portuguese beer glasses and an Italian metal tape dispenser among them. They chose to focus on one country at a time. Each item was accompanied with a printed synopsis of the item’s back story. This isn’t their first alliance with a museum. Two years ago Kiosk’s archives were featured in a 1,276-piece installation at MoMA PS1 in New York.
Grifo and ter Haar Romeny believe a place of commerce is an ideal place to begin conversations, and to look at and show the world to others. Routinely asked whether Kiosk is art or a shop, they see it as “just Kiosk,” — a forum for what they do. After closing the SoHo location in 2013, they continued their project from a space in Union Square.
In London, there are 35 items displayed for sale including the Finnish Safety Wing bike reflector, the Swedish “American Lottery,” tickets which can double as a necklace, American-made Handyaid that “lends a hand to your hand” and the German-produced Rainbow Prism that enables you “to be the guy with the rainbow, that girl with the planet.” Kiosk’s ideology boils down to, “You don’t have to travel far; look up, down and around…when you open your eyes fascination is everywhere.”
The founders’ goal “has always been to stick to our artistic and moral values; to have a creative project that we believe in, that functions simultaneously as a business. Rather than applying for grants or funding, or relying on sales from commercial gallery representation, the public supports us through their purchases.”
Visiting relatives in the south of France for a spell, Grifo said she is considering Kiosk’s next moves such as a book or a new collection. “It’s pretty much just me working on this now, so step by step,” she said.
As for the company’s first home at 95 Spring Street, that building was torn down as part of a record-breaking development deal that is now a five-story, 55,000-square-foot Nike store.