By Jill Colvin
MIDTOWN — After nearly two years standing bare, the brick and cinder-block walls at Midtown’s Miwa-Alex Salon have once again been transformed into a contemporary art gallery.
For years, owner Miwa Ikegami had opened her doors to clients, inviting them to transform her East 22nd Street salon into an art space. She nailed frames and pins into the walls and hosted receptions in their honor.
But since Ikegami died in Dec. 2009, the walls have stood bare.
"From that time on, there was no art," said Ikegami’s husband, Leon Zamdmer, 57, who now runs the salon and had hung numerous pictures of his wife on the walls to maintain her presence.
This week, the art has returned.
The show, which will officially launch next Wednesday, includes Japanese-inspired drawings and colorful paper compositions selling for between $300 and $1,200. Cadoff had previously showed her work at the gallery in 2008, Zamdmer said.
"This was Miwa’s way," said long time salon stylist Terue Osa, 52, smiling as she looked over the newly adorned walls.
Ikegami moved to the US from Japan in the 1970s after studying art at a prestigious college in Tokyo. She had always loved art and, in 2005, decided to trade the usual glossy salon head shots for original compositions.
She hosted three shows a year, giving her clients and their families and friends a venue they otherwise never would have been able to afford.
"Some of them are yearning to have a place to show their stuff," said Zamdmer, who described the galleries uptown and in Chelsea and Midtown as out of reach.
"They’re not big names. But they want to express something," he said.
Zamdmer said much of Ikegami’s goal was to make her clients happy. Sometimes she would buy works anonymously just so they could feel the pride of seeing a red 'sold' sticker next to their names.
The art also serves as a conversation piece for clients, said Zamdmer, who said he loves the way the salon’s mirrors impact the experience.
"People are looking at themselves looking at the art," he said, "It makes them step back."
Carole Schwartz, a loyal client for the past 25 years, said she and other regulars had always looked forward to seeing the new works on display. She was thrilled to see they had returned when she came in for a cut Wednesday.
"I walked in today and I was just happy to see art on the walls," said Schwartz, 64, who has an apartment in Midtown. "It’s really nice. The clients get to see some interesting art and this is a great space to show it off."
She said that her old friend would also have been glad to see it return.
"Miwa’s smiling," she said.
And while Zamdmer is still mourning his wife’s death, he said he was pleased, too.
"It was time to take her down," he said. "It is as it should be."
"Paperworks & Drawings" will be on display through July 8 at the Miwa-Alex Salon at 24 E. 22nd St. A reception will held next Wed. from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The salon is also planning additional shows this summer and winter.