Painter and dealer Joanne Mayhew (b. circa 1947) changed her name to Gracie Mansion in 1982, and opened a gallery in the bathroom of her East Village apartment in March of that same year.
Gracie Mansion's first "Loo Division" exhibition was of her friend's photographs. The previous year, Gracie Mansion helped organize the "Limo Show", for which she rented a limousine and parked it on the corner of Spring and Broadway with fellow artists Buster Cleveland and Sur Rodney Sur. There, dressed as tourists, they served champagne and tried to sell their artwork to passersby.
This grassroots approach to the art market came to typify the emerging East Village art scene. Frustrated by the closed system of the SoHo and 57th Street galleries, in 1981-1982 several young artists and artists' groups began organizing shows and forming makeshift galleries of their own for fun and profit in the more affordable dilapidated East Village. The artwork they sold, predominately paintings, were also more affordable than those in SoHo.
The press quickly picked up on the East Village phenomenon and Mansion, who borrowed her name from the New York City mayor's official residence, had a charisma that made her and her gallery one of its favorite subjects. After three well-attended shows in her apartment, her landlord put a halt to her exhibitions and she moved her gallery to a larger space at 15 St. Mark's, then shortly after to 337 East Tenth Street between Avenues A and B. An integral part of the East Village art scene by the mid-80's, the Gracie Mansion Gallery, ran with the assistance of Sur Rodney Sur from 1983-1989, was one of the best known in the East Village during this boon.
Mansion specialized in large group exhibitions, theme shows that dramatically restyled the gallery, and the creative marketing of small affordable art. She represented a synthesis of painting and sculpture, art and environments, as opposed to single isolated objects. Among the artists she represented were Claudia DeMonte, Rodney Alan Greenblat, Ed McGowin , David Sandlin, Hope Sandrow, David Wojnarowicz, and Rhonda Zwillinger.
Eventually, Mansion relocated the gallery to SoHo and then Chelsea before closing in 2002 to focus on private dealing and the secondary market.