With an unassuming facade on Bowery, Vandal doesn’t really stand out among the mix of home goods stores, bars and art galleries lining the stretch, but once you step inside, the restaurant functions as an awe-inspiring art gallery.
Since its opening in 2016, Vandal has featured murals and large sculptures (hello, breakdancing bunny) and guests are now welcomed through an optical illusion like something out of "Alice in Wonderland."
The foyer’s new art installation by @IamEnhance is a black and white checkerboard design that curves over and covers everything in the room — the walls, the floors and objects like an umbrella, a ball, stuffed animal bowling pins and a vase, among other things. When you move around the room, you sometimes get tricked into thinking things are moving out of the corner of your eye, but it’s just the illusion.
About 90 percent of the work was done with tape, according to the artist, and it took more than two months to complete because @IamEnhance could only work on it overnight when Vandal was closed.
It’s no surprise that the installation, dubbed "Endless Chess," is good for an Instagram picture. Vandal has set itself apart with an emphasis on massive artworks that set a vibe for each room in the two-story establishment.
"You don’t know how big the place is behind the front door and the art that is involved," a restaurant spokeswoman said. "When you’re inside, it doesn’t feel like you’re in Manhattan."
Vandal’s aesthetic is largely inspired by street art, which is hinted in its stylized logo and sign out front. In fact, the first piece you see beyond "Endless Chess" is an 11-foot-tall bright pink, breakdancing bunny named "Icy Grape" by Rockwell Group. It’s named after a discontinued spray paint color that was popular with street artists, according to its website.
Each room has its own mood set by the incredible art on its walls by artists like HUSH, Shepard Fairey, Tristan Eaton, Apexer, VHLS, Will Barras and Eelus.
TAO Group opened Vandal in 2016 as a 300-seat restaurant and nightclub featuring global street fare. Its very active Instagram page features partiers posing with the artwork — mostly with the breakdancing bunny — but its "Endless Chess" foyer is now the star of its page.
Vandal at 199 Bowery is open for dinner and partying until 1 a.m. Fridays through Sundays, until midnight on Tuesdays and Thursdays and until 11 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays.