"At a recently vacated meatpacking space in the West Village, billboards outside promote vegetarianism. One depicts slaughtered dogs hanging from meat hooks.
It's part of an art installation at Gavin Brown's enterprise, a contemporary art gallery in the West Village, which, despite the recession, has more than doubled in size in recent months. On April 24, it took over the space next door, formerly occupied by the gallery's landlord, Pat LaFrieda Wholesale Meat Purveyors, a company that sells farm-raised beef to trendy restaurants like Abe & Arthur's and Minetta Tavern.
Instead of pouring concrete floors and painting the walls white, Mr. Brown decided to keep the new space as it was, at least for a while. The first show, "Go Vegan!" by conceptual artist Jonathan Horowitz, makes use of the meat lockers, fluorescent lighting and raw meat smell left behind.
One piece in the show, which is set to open Sunday, is "200 Celebrity Vegetarians Downloaded from the Internet," for which Mr. Horowitz hung dozens of photographs of famous vegetarians from Albert Einstein to former "The Price Is Right" host Bob Barker. Elsewhere, a sculpture features a block of tofu suspended in a bowl of water.
The exhibition marks a new chapter in the quirky landlord-tenant relationship that has developed between the boundary-pushing gallery and the old-fashioned meat wholesaler that collects its rent checks. It hasn't always been a smooth partnership. In 2007, artist Urs Fischer created a piece that required drilling a massive hole into the gallery's concrete floor.
"We walked over there with my uncle that day and he almost had a heart attack," says Mark Pastore, the chief operating officer of the company and the nephew of Pat LaFrieda Sr.
How did Mr. Pastore explain it to his uncle? "We told him he was digging to look for bodies."
Despite past clashes (including another art piece that involved hanging a police car from the gallery's ceiling), Mr. Pastore says the company was glad to rent its vacated space to the gallery, which has always paid its rent on time.
The current exhibition, says Mr. Horowitz, is a mixture of "art and advocacy," and is meant to be taken "both literally and metaphorically." He added that the unique space presented an opportunity to re-create the installation, which originally was displayed at a museum in Hamburg, Germany, in 2002.
"He's a wise guy, we heard about it," Mr. Pastore said of the artist and his exhibition. He added that the gallery has extended an invitation to its landlords to the opening party. But they probably won't attend.
"If we show up it could be like, 'There they are! The meat people!"