Vanity Projects Mixes Modern Nail Designs With Art

In New York City, you can have the art world at your fingertips, and even on your fingertips. At Vanity Projects on the Lower East Side, I saw first-hand how nail art has been elevated to mini works of art with amazing pictures, patterns and even reproductions of famous artwork.

"The nail artists are on a Nail Artist in Residency program here. I invite nail artists from all over the world to come to the salon for a limited amount of time," says Vanity Projects founder Rita Pinto.

Vanity Projects is not just an artsy nail salon. It doubles as an art gallery displaying new video art, curated by Pinto.

"I started meeting these girls that do amazing nails and I thought ‘What could you do while you're getting your nails done?’ Sometimes they can take up to two hours. So I thought we could be watching video art," she says.

And it is not really a stretch at all. With the popularity of contemporary nail art, many of the nail artists have been invited to do manicures inside museums.

"Usually our customer will just bring pictures for inspiration, and we just do it on their nails," says nail artist Kylie Kwok.

She says this is a global trend, but especially in Asia. She says the boom started in Japan more than a decade ago.

"People do crazy things over there, like very long nails. You never see naked nails on the street,” she says.

Now unlike at a traditional art gallery, here you can be part of crafting the masterpiece. I chose a look that was inspired by fashion with lace and sparkles. But it could be just about anything you're into.

"We have Princess Leia, R2D2, a galaxy theme, Han Solo and Chewbacca," says Pinto.

A gel manicure runs about $40. Something as elaborate as the Star Wars saga is about $120. To put it into perspective, in Japan something like that is pretty much considered a basic "mani."

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