Welcome to Explain Your Tchotchkes, a new feature where Eater asks restaurateurs about why they picked the decorations, knickknacks, and other notable design details in their dining rooms.
Kurt Gutenbrunner's casual Tribeca restaurant Blaue Gans has an amazing collection of art exhibition posters on the walls. Some of these were put up by the owners of Le Zinc, the restaurant that occupied this space years ago, but many were hung by Kurt. He loves modern art and has several friends and regular guests who are local artists. We recently chatted with Kurt about the history of the posters, and the other unique details of the dining room.
Kurt Gutenbrunner, chef and co-owner: "I used to live in Tribeca, and I always admired what David and Karen Waltuck did with Le Zinc. When they wanted to sell the space, I said that I really, really loved the posters, and I didn't want anybody to take them out, like to prevent the posters from getting lost, and I didn't want to interrupt the space. So, I took over six years ago and put a communal space in there, and changed the menu to what we call a gasthaus in Austria and Germany, with a more bistro-style menu."
"In Austria and Germany, the gasthauses all have names like 'The Golden Sun,' 'The Black Eagle,' 'The Green Tree,' and there's an arthotel in Austria called Blaue Gans which very much influenced me. I know the owners of the other Blaue Gans, and when they come to New York they visit me, and when I go to Austria I always go to their place."
"I have a lot of galleries and artists send me posters and ask me if I could add them to the collection there, and so for me it's like a collage. It's a piece of art. I consider it art, and I have a lot of gallery opening events here, because artists kind of like the environment."
"My favorite one, I think my absolute favorite, is what I got from Lou Reed when he did Berlin at St. Ann's, and I have a Julian Schnabel in there, which I adore."
"And then I started this collection of geese and ducks, and some people bring them to me — they're just little toys. I love antique stores, and there's one on top of the bar that I got as a present from my partner."
"The interior very much reminds me of places in Vienna and Berlin, so I wanted to have a big table. In Austria, these kinds of restaurants usually have a large table, which is where the regulars sit, and they always know that they have their table. And in the Viennese cafes you have the newspaper holders and people just enjoy their time with the papers."
"When I see people walking through the space and looking at the posters and maybe remembering the exhibitions that they went to, it's a really a good feeling. One day I had Chuck Close sitting on the top of the big table, and his poster was right behind him. I said to myself, 'That's it. That's a great moment.' It makes me happy."