Dragon, Crab and Turtle is a new and innovative American gallery located in the Midtown Design District, St. Louis, Missouri. The gallery opened during Covid and has been open by appointment only. The gallery envisions a diverse program dealing in many forms of art. Our first show, Tiny and Small Paintings from Brazil (November—December 2020), featured small paintings collected in Salvador, Bahia, mostly created by anonymous artists. Our second exhibit, Traders (December 2020-February 2021), showcased paintings that had been traded by Katherine Bernhardt over many years.
How did the gallery begin? Bernhardt painted a site-specific 60-foot mural for a show at CAM (January-April, 2017) featuring a colossal-sized and vibrantly coloured toucan, watermelon, Kartell ceiling light, toilet paper, batteries and a philodendron leaf. After the show ended, the mural needed to be stored somewhere so Katherine bought an abandoned warehouse building nearby on a street where cars and car parts were once manufactured.
One of the artisan-crafted terracotta motifs glazed in beige and repeated across the building’s 1910 façade features wheels spinning on the power of long feathery wings that vaguely recalls Leon Battista Alberti’s winged racing eye motif—as well as racing wheels and racing cars. The façade also features elongated versions of dragons (or ancient-looking plestiodons), crabs and turtles—classic exotic animals found in medieval and early modern European architecture as well as in American architecture seeking to recall that time and place.
Katherine’s exciting debut show was a long time in the making as renovation work on the building literally took years to complete. Rotten old ceiling insulation, wet walls and floors caused by a leaking roof, an office-type layout made into tiny carpeted cubicles, and junk and filth once filled the space. Now the space has been emptied, cleared, cleaned and thoroughly, innovatively and colorfully renovated! It features a Donald Judd-style bookcase in its upstairs “Soho Loft” area, four wall-to- wall and ceiling-to-floor tiled bathrooms with different coloured grouts and Italian light fixtures, a kitchen area with painted cabinets in seven different colours, and a second loft space for Khalifa and his piñata collection. The building also includes storage spaces atop different colored carpets as Katherine emptied her storage units in the NYC area and brought her work home. Finally, the space includes a large rectangular gallery exhibit space featuring a hand-painted floor made at Ceramica Suro in Guadalajara with multiple images of Scotch Tape, Sharpies and other pop culture items. The ceiling is lit by long fluorescent bulbs arranged like constellations against a dark sky.