CASE STUDY// The Invisible Dog

Credit: Ensam Lee

Photo Credit: Ensam Lee


Address: 51 Bergen St. Brooklyn, NY 11201

Founder: Lucien Zayan (Director)

Institution type: Artists studio/ exhibition space

Operating Hours:
MON: Closed
TUE-WED: by appointment
THURS-SAT: 1pm to 7pm
SUN: 1pm to 5pm

Contacts:  Lucien Zayan (Director) & Risa Shoup (Associate Director)

studios: by appointment and upon wish only
exhibitions: prices vary depending on artists and exhibits

Mission: The mission of The Invisible Dog is to create, from the ground up, a new kind of interdisciplinary arts center.

The institution is neither a commercial gallery nor a non- profit organization. The goal of the institution is to create a new kind of arts center or even a new kind of artistic community – the roots of which lie in long term collaboration with the artists. They aim to provide a kind of community where artists working in different media can interact and perhaps even collaborate with one another. Additionally, the ideas of experimentation and collaboration are very crucial to the people at The Invisible Dog, and therefore become vital in their curatorial process as well. These values of long-term collaboration, interdisciplinary collaboration and emphasis on experimentation allow their work to be different from what is seen of artists elsewhere in New York City.

Credit: Ensam Lee

Photo Credit: Ensam Lee


History of institution: The Invisible Dog was founded by Lucien Zayan in 2008, when he discovered the building at 51 Bergen Street as an unused, abandoned factory building. The Invisible Dog, as an institution for artists, came into operation in October of 2009. The 30,000 sf building was originally built in 1800s to house factories and other industrial spaces and therefore some of the spaces in the building strike out as fairly odd. The former industrial space now serves as an open ended exhibition and studio space that hosts a variety of events including visual art exhibits, dance, theater and, music performances in addition to film screenings, literary arts and poetry readings, lectures, community events, and even more.

Credit: Ensam Lee

Photo Credit: Ensam Lee


Other facts:

  • The Invisible Dog is a fairly new art based institution, however the demand for a studio space within this institution is extremely high among young artists in the greater New York City metropolitan area.
  • The institution is fully occupied now; it houses 34 resident artists that have practices in different fields of visual and performing such as theatre, music and dance as well as fine arts including sculpture, paintings, etc.
  • A fairly large number of studios are also occupied by design firms.
  • The institution intentionally seeks artists that work not only in different media but also artist that work with different interest in mind- such as commercial v/s. personal, small scale v/s. large scale, and mass producible v/s. custom-made or personalized
    Credit: Ensam Lee
Photo Credit: Ensam Lee


  • Additionally, studio spaces are rented out only after a selection process is carried out in order to determine if the artist would fit well in the community.
  • Artist’s portfolios are looked at to get an idea of the artists personal and commercial interests instead of judging his worthiness of getting a spot in the institution
  • The institution leases out studio space on contract lasting 12- 24 months. The demand for studio space is so high that the institution already has a 2 year wait-list.
  • Considering that the building at 51 Bergen Street is very old and not designed to fit the program of art gallery and studio space, several architectural problems have had to be dealt with.
  • The building has no air conditioning for the most part because it was an industrial building that is now used to house exhibition spaces. The cold has continued to remain a problem; however, the institution is trying to fix that with the funds they receive from visiting artists and curators.
  • Additionally, the institution is also trying to fund solutions for problems like water leakage over time, lack of lavatories, etc.
  • The building also uses what used to be an industrial freight elevator as a primary tool for vertical solution. While this is quite wasteful in terms of electricity, it is definitely a plus point in the building as the artists use it to carry their pieces and materials up and down the building.
    Credit: Ensam Lee
Photo Credit: Ensam Lee
  • Additionally, the building also has a set of fire stairs that is used quite frequently as there is no architectural stairwell in the building
  • This is another factor the jurors at the Invisible Dog have to be mindful of. They need to make sure that the artists they are leasing their space out to, are aware and okay with these conditions.
  • The in-house artists at the invisible dog rent out the studio spaces at reduced rates and sometimes even for free.
  • In order to provide this kind of service, the Invisible Dog rents out their ground floor exhibition space and the third floor loft space for  events including photo shoots, bar mitzvahs, corporate meetings, weddings, product launches, sample sales and even birthday parties. 30% of proceeds from these events go towards funding for the maintenance of the building as well as subsiding the rent for the artists- in- residence.
  • The institution is very focused on the idea of creating an art based community that values experimentation, collaboration and cross-disciplinary interaction. Evidence of these traits was observed in the work of the artists- in –residence as we took a tour of the institution.
  • The institution does not only provide space for upcoming artist of the greater New York metropolitan area but also helps them with networking, connection, and exhibition opportunities.
  • There is a new pop-up store being constructed in the ground floor of the institution that works very closely with the institution. This also gives an idea of the institution’s interest in long term collaboration and working in close proximity with their artists-in-residence.
    Credit: Ensam Lee
    Credit: Ensam Lee
Photo Credit: Ensam Lee



Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.