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The Short Version: Sargent’s Daughters is an art gallery with a reflective and historical approach to curating. The team at this New York City venue is interested in tradition, yet they’re also focused on encouraging forward-thinking artistic ideas. These concepts attract innovative artists and provide couples with hours of enjoyment. Sargent’s Daughters is also located in Lower Manhattan, a perfect date setting near parks and restaurants suited for friendly debate and intimate banter after a visit.
A common concern on a first date is running out of conversation topics — or worse, having a painful, boring conversation. Being unable to easily talk to someone could be a red flag that something isn’t right because communication is directly linked to a feeling of connection in couples.
In fact — according to a survey of 2,000 daters — 9 out of 10 singles believe great conversation is the best sign of a successful first date. However, 65% of those respondents said conversational skills are a lost art, with 61% pointing to technology as a significant barrier to conversation.
One way to encourage conversation is to plan an activity that encourages your date to talk about personal views and provide a natural way to build on topics. One of the most reliable destinations for eliciting — and discussing — emotions is an art gallery.
Sargent’s Daughters is a forward-thinking gallery located in Manhattan and frequented by art lovers who relish its thought-provoking pieces and innovative new styles. While the gallery is rooted in traditionalism, its goal is to break down walls not only to encourage conversation but also to make art more accessible.
“I think art can often be intimidating, and, especially as a gallery in New York, there is something that can seem even more intimidating about it,” said Sargent’s Daughters Gallery Assistant, John Belknap. “Thankfully, that’s not what our vibe is.”
Art has a natural way of bringing people together to exchange ideas and find common bonds. Galleries also give singles an opportunity to talk about a variety of topics — more than a typical date night broaches.
Sargent’s Daughters was founded on a thematic concept: Exploring the legacy of John Singer Sargent more abstractly.
“We are interested inartists working in a traditional medium with cutting-edge ideas,” said John. Because Sargent’s Daughters has a conceptual edge, it’s more exciting for visitors. People enjoy exploring new ideas in traditional modes of expression. It’s a perfect bridge between modern and contemporary art.
“We get a lot of people who are gallery hopping. It’s a different vibe than somewhere like Chelsea where you are there to see a particular show. There’s a lot more to explore, and it creates a fun kind of date because there’s so much to do.” — John Belknap, Sargent’s Daughters Gallery Assistant
The gallery hosts both group and solo shows for emerging artists every four to six weeks. “If it’s painting, you get to explore what one artist is working toward. If an artist is working in an abstract form, you can explore the art conceptually or discuss the idea the artist was trying to communicate,” John said.
The gallery’s location also makes it an ideal place for a date. It is on the Lower East Side of Manhattan near a subway stop. And John adds that the surrounding area is perfect to keep the conversation going.
“We are right by a park and a lot of great restaurants. There are also some great cafes,” John said. “We get a lot of people who are gallery hopping. It’s a different vibe than Chelsea. There’s a lot more to explore, and it creates a fun kind of date because there’s so much to do.”
With a rotating exhibition schedule, the gallery is home to many artists and diverse points of view. One common thread, however, is cultural storytelling. Artists spend considerable time on the links we, as humans, have to specific social institutions, ideas, and places. Their art gives visitors ample material for reflection and reaction.
Saira McLaren has been featured at Sargent’s Daughters, and her works are often in the abstract vein. Her latest show, “rope, straw, and feathers are to sleep on,” was inspired by The Foxfire Book.
“She explores the Appalachian Trail folklore with her work,” John said. “It’s cool to see people find different forms and shapes of creatures and things in nature.”
Actress and artist Jemima Kirke, best known for her role as Jessa in the HBO show “Girls,” put on a show at Sargent’s Daughters called “The Ceremony.” It included portraits of her close friends and family in painted wedding dresses. Some of the women had been married a while, some were recent divorcées, and some never plan to get married.
“There’s something very performative about their expressions. It’s an interesting topic to explore — how often does someone put back on their wedding dress?” John said. “That was interesting to see people’s reactions and it stirred up a lot of conversations as there was a lot to explore.”
Sargent’s Daughters also feature artists who embrace the gallery’s theme of connecting old with new. Chris Oh’s show called “Interiors” dove into historic art as he painted Northern Renaissance imagery onto objects he found or that were given to him as gifts. One piece, “Damascus,” is a honey jar with a detail of Mary’s hand holding a small bunch of flowers toward the hands of the infant Jesus. Another, “Merge,” is a healing crystal that Oh found on the street that depicts the hand of Gabriel.
“There’s something funny and tongue-in-cheek about the items he used to depict art history and Christian theology,” John said. “It’s impactful to see the Old Masters revisited in a contemporary way.” It’s an ideal way to spark a conversation about how art is influenced and created.
Another exhibit, “In Times of Perseus,” curated by Sophie Landres, explores the parallels between the myth of Perseus and Medusa and contemporary art. The exhibition featured several artists and each piece explored a realm of the social hierarchy, view of self, and what the curator calls, “weaponized reflections.”
It is a compelling group show from a guest curator that can lead to in-depth discussions on social and personal topics.
Sargent’s Daughters has something for everyone to talk about — young or old, singles or couples. The gallery’s welcoming space has an intimate feel.
“If it’s a nice day out, I’ll open the doors,” John said. “If people have questions, I’m always ready to respond, and it has led to some great conversations.”
And the innovative gallery plans on providing visitors with more diverse shows and collaborations.
“We are in the midst of an all-female led curatorial initiative, in which we have been inviting guest curators to come,” John said.
“It’s been interesting to give some great curators a platform to try out some of their ideas in a space like ours.”
Rather than heading out for dinner and a movie, make a plan to visit Sargent’s Daughters on your next date in NYC. You can bond through conversations over the thought-provoking pieces. It’s a rewarding way to form connections in a low-pressure setting.