Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Joy of the Physical Space vs. Rent : Open Thread

It's almost a fetish with me. The pleasure I take in patching, sanding, and repainting the walls of the gallery after each exhibition. I don't always do it myself, but when I do (and I often do), there's an almost perverse satisfaction to the process: taking inventory of the damage, solving how to repair the larger interventions from the last show, and especially over-sanding, over-painting, or just over-looking as I attempt to restore that pristine white cube each time. I love it, to be honest.

No, I'm not interested in repairing the walls at your gallery for free, so don't ask. It's only in our space that the practice seems to have meaning. Often when I catch myself enjoying it, I wonder if artists go through a similar thought process when applying the gesso to a canvas or whatever. The preparation for a new, hopefully wonderful project.

I was thinking about all this when I received the heartbreaking, yet very eloquent announcement by Caren Golden that she was closing her physical space. In the artinfo.com report on the closing, they quote Caren as noting that
"I look forward to reducing the demands and overhead that a physical space requires, and hope that this freedom will allow me to pursue a deeper and more varied relationship with the contemporary art scene."
Now I've known and respected Caren as long, if not longer, than I've known any other New York dealer. Hers was one of the first new galleries I enthusiastically followed upon moving to the city in late 1994 (Caren Golden Fine Art opened in Soho in 1995), and I have always admired her eye. Not quoted from Caren's email announcement in the artinfo.com story, though, was this sentiment that I know all too well must have made Caren's decision excruciating:
[I]t is difficult to give up the energy that comes with the monthly cycle of exhibitions presented in a pubic gallery space.
That energy is totally addictive, but, let's face it, ridiculously expensive in New York City. When we share what we pay for rent with friends who have galleries in Culver City or Berlin, for example, they nearly choke (or is that simply them stifling a guffaw? Hmmmm?).

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to discuss with some art world insiders (gallerists, art fair organizers, artists) whether or not the advances in technology would lead to a shift away from the brick-and-mortar spaces we know as galleries into something more virtual. One conversation delved into sci-fi territory at one point, with me playing devil's advocate and speculating that at some point the resolution of virtual reality simulation (3D of course) could be so high that it might be impossible to tell a virtual work of art from a real one. An artist and friend of ours laughed and said, "If you think painters hate you now...."

The problem with that scenario, of course, is that it would most likely cost one hell of a lot more to present art in a virtual reality space than a traditional white cube, initially at least. But the more global the art market becomes, the less sense it makes for a gallery program to exist in one physical location. There are of course art fairs (but then you're limited by 4-day exhibitions and the booth format), jpegs (I can hear the painters and sculptors, etc., going "ugh" from here), and international branches (oh, yes please, quadruple my overhead and shipping costs). Most dealers that I know who tried the two- or three-location model tell me it wasn't the money, though, that lead them to close their satellite spaces, but the time lost traveling back and forth.

But letting speculation run wild for a bit, what other options are there for exhibiting and selling art at emerging artist prices that might help in "reducing the demands and overhead that a physical space requires." New York has recently lost some truly important gallery programs, in my opinion. I hold no hope that the city's landlords will suddenly find it in their hearts to offer more reasonable rents during the downturn, and I'm sure if the answers were easy that hundreds of galleries would be changing things already (i.e., moving to Wyoming might be cheaper but...you still want people to see the work). Sometimes, though, the most "out there" idea can be tweaked into something practical. So let your imaginations run wild a bit...how can art be presented to the public in a commercial context that benefits both artist and viewer and doesn't drain the life savings of a dealer when the economy takes a nose dive?

Labels: art market, gallery locations, open thread


Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

Once upon a time in electronics (the business I know the best) the center fo the universe was Silicon Valley. Sure there were other companies doing electronics, but, frankly, most of the truly exciting development and breakthroughs were happening in the ring of cities stretchign from San Mateo around the Bay to Fremont. And this was the way of things - if you wanted to work on the cutting edge, on the most exciting projects, you had best make your way there. And of course, rents and living expenses were reported on the national news - I only think Manhattan itself was consistently more expensive.

Fast forward to today. Electronics has spread around the globe - where someone with an idea, can found a company and expect to get reasonable talent nearly anywhere. However, Silicon Valley is a very important place - there are still the famous business incubators, and small companies that was the engine of growth of an entire industry. And of course, this transformation happened over decades of boom and bust. It started when small companies were becoming larger ones, but could not afford to grow in Silicon Valley, so grew outside of it. There were some exceptions, but nonetheless, Silicon Valley has already transitioned (at least in my opinion) - and will not be quite the engine of new growth and ideas as before - but will remain important and relevant nonetheless (and the demographics are daunting - many kids growing up there cannot reasonably expect to live as well as their parents, so usually leave. I wonder if this is similar to Manhattan?).

Now, I realize art is different, but I am wondering out loud how different. Could Chelsea be a art program "incubator" with growth in other areas? Or could one reasonably expect to found a gallery and grow in prestige outside of Chelsea? Say ... Santa Fe, Los Angeles, Chicago or some other place similar rather than the upper Midwest and Western States all of your Manhattanites seem to wave your hands vaguely towards as being "the middle of nowhere where the rents are cheap." ;-)

7/07/2009 09:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

THis isn't technology access related, but it is on the fringes of "commercialism" in the fine arts arena ....

I know that Barefoot Wines sponsor art shows - they supply their wine and a host/hostess to serve the gallery audience. So "sponsorship" from related markets might help offset costs. So the exhibit becomes a marketable "commodity" in of itself.

Obviously consideration is required for appropriateness of the sponsoree but hey, I figure there has to be a Camembert producer out there willing to offer a selection to the right gallery in the right season ...

7/07/2009 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Short term, artists can donate a piece or two to save their dealer. And allow them to be sold at can't-say-no prices. Long term (for the rest of this downturn), the only alternatives I can think of are those all businesses are limited to: sell more or move to a cheaper space. Also: diversify. Do you have tourists coming through? Sell beautifully designed Winkleman Gallery posters, calendars, coffee mugs, T-shirts, baseball caps - whatever. Who wouldn't want to come back to Wisconsin (or wherever) with some of that stuff? Especially if personalized and signed by Ed and/or the exhibiting artist (when he or she is around). Damn. Sell this stuff on your website too. I want a Winkleman coffee mug!

7/07/2009 09:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

technology wise in the short term I would say augmented reality and PICO projectors are the things to watch - where your Iphone can project an iamge of the desired art onto a viewing surface (a wall, a framed space, your living room ...)

teh augmented reality would let others walk through your gallery space wherever they are, with the gallerist there for interaction

7/07/2009 09:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

you can now (and i have) show an exhibit over google earth in 3D and the user/viewer can "walk" through a gallery space in 3D, with pinholders that can give access to full resolution images over the web, or give links to "Etsy" like websites for purchasing derivative products, or links to the gallery to set up a meeting to see the actual pieces.

...but all this uses new technologies to mimic what we do now in virtuality, the real value lies in leveraging the new possibilities within that technology - but those possibilities are usually seen only by trying out the old (known) possibilities. But alt least you can reach a larger audience.

7/07/2009 09:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

there are existing companies that allow you to offer your "image" for display on a closed visual network in cafes. (they put up high resolution monitors in the cafe - and then update the flash card as it were) So you can have a presence in the local neighbourhood in another state, and if someone is really interested, then they can reach the artists gallery

7/07/2009 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Addendum to last comment: I bet a lot of us who follow this blog would donate art, design services - whatever - to keep the gallery and blog going. I would.

Shout-out! Roll call:

7/07/2009 10:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

sorry about the number of posts but I like ideating ...

services like blurb.com allow you to take an exhibit and create a derivative product in terms of a quality book - hardcover or soft- that is only printed on demand so there is no financial outlay for the gallery.

caveat - blurb doesn't let you take down the book once uploaded for sale (copyright of images remain yours)

7/07/2009 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

The problem with a lot of art is that it looks better in a jpeg than in the flesh. The worlds of the virtual are about information but lack the sensory tactility of human interaction and experience. It is like having sex in second life, or pornography or instant coffee.

Ultimately, it is a problem about rents, the real estate bubble also drove rents higher. Artists were forced out of Manhattan several years ago, whether or not the galleries follow or just close is yet to be determined.

Maybe the galleries in Chelsea should all just give notice to their landlords and start negotiating with someone else for lower rents and longer leases. 23rd Street storefronts might support a boutique, but the large warehouse buildings are going to have to compete with a million square feet of new office construction.

I was talking with a menswear retailer on Orchard street Friday, about how the LES has changed over the years. To "the Italians have been displaced by the Chinese" he said "yes, but the rents are starting to be too high for the Chinese, the art galleries are moving in" Well, something like that, la-dee-das-ville.

But, what I really think is that none of this matters. Galleries are going to close because the times are tough and their owners are not good at business. Or because they have lost interest because it's not so much fun now. Or because they didn't have a money-maker artist or two. Or all of the above.

Still, there will always be someone new starting a gallery amidst the current ruins who is wildly successful over the next twenty years, it's the American dream.

7/07/2009 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Guerrilla-style shows in all those empty retail spaces (or even houses) that are sitting on the market?

7/07/2009 10:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as rental spaces are concerned, it would be nice if we had a mayor who was pro-tenant for a change. In NYC we have a term-limited mayor who thinks laws don't apply to him because he's the new Napoleon. When he says term limits don't apply to him while calling himself an "Independent" the two established political parties don't even offer any real candidate for the election. I keep waiting for a series of posters to be put on walls around NY that show Bloomberg in his castle and the rest of us huddled masses on the other side of the moat with the title "Serfs Up?".

At this point NY politics should be more vibrant than ever but sadly are nonexistent when we need them most. From Albany's lockdown to our dismal mayoral race there appears to be no hope on the horizon, politically anyway.

-----ondine nyc

7/07/2009 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger ec said...

Ed, what strikes me as the hardest part is the shift in context that a move outside of the white cube would bring. The white cube reminds us art is visual and physical (some of it, anyway) and provides a container to experience the viscerality of surface, image, etc.
What idea has not been tossed about--consortiums and / or galleries swapping out spaces, as well as the options you mention.
I always liked the apartment idea and also an idea from Stephanie Jackson about empty buildings loaning to artists at low rates. But the white cube, its traditions and rites, feel important to exhibiting physical works.

7/07/2009 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

That's very kind of you Tom, but let's hold off on that, OK? We're struggling, but not closing (no time soon anyway).

There are much more deserving recipients of your time and money.

7/07/2009 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

On that note, the single best thing anyone can do to support the galleries (and their artists) they're fond of is to purchase some art from them. Ask them what they have in your price range...you might be pleasantly surprised.

7/07/2009 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arrange a meeting/forum of all gallery spaces and landlords. If this is physically impossible, consider doing it online as a podcast, or...

Discuss the facts, figures, and POV's from all sides. Determine if gallery rents could be adjusted either short or longer term.

Big-Box Gallery spaces containing numerous galleries, sharing costs and overhead. It works for design centers. Convince the building owners to go green so savings benefits everyone.

This one is ridiculous, and could be a post of its own: All galleries in NYC agree to go out of business for a month, a year or... What would happen? Who would rent all these spaces? What would the reaction be from the public, the lawmakers (well, we know they won't do anything), the rest of the world?

Any of these would take guts, commitment, organization, and - is unlikely to happen.

but Ed said let your imaginations run wild a bit...

7/07/2009 10:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

how about outreach to other cultural instituitons? - the NYC Opera has an upcoming show "American Voices" - arrange to host in the lobby a portable display of the galleries American artists - return the favour by inviting a quintet to play in the gallery

... there are "towns" in the states that offer incentives for artists (maybe galleriests too) to purchase studio space (reduced taxes, preferred mortgages ) ... some places do encourage cultural development If you don't want to set up in that town, bring similar initiatives to your city council.

7/07/2009 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

I've seen some really cool restaurants in a shipping container - lobster cooked over wood specialities -with terrase


Maybe alternative "housing" could give bricks and mortar to a mobile art galelry

7/07/2009 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Rather than closing up shop, how viable would it be for, say, three dealers to share a physical space?

If a space could be configured to house a main gallery and two smaller side galleries, each dealer could present an exhibition each month, with the large space in rotation so that each gallery gets a blow-out show three times year. Or maybe there would be three equal-size rooms to avoid the hierarchical issues.

While the arrangement would have some drawbacks, think of the advantages:
. Overhead would be cut by 2/3 for each dealer
. Traffic to the gallery "complex" would increase threefold
. With colleagues on the premesis, dealers would be able to slip out to make studio visits, see art, or simply have more time to cultivate collectors.
. You'd be in the forefront of a new model of collectivity and entrepreneurial ingenuity
. You wouldn't have to sell mugs

7/07/2009 11:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

If I were going to do this, I would form a project entity that would go around to various disused spaces, occupy them for a week, install a show, document it in a catalog and on a website, market it beforehand and during, try to sell as much work out of the show as possible, strike it, and return the artwork. Four to six weeks later, I'd do it again in a new space with a new show. Capital would be spent on portable lighting, good marketing materials, and the website. A small inventory of small works would be available for sale through the website. An identity would form around the project entity itself, which would put its name on all these shows just as a gallery would for any that took place in its spaces. Downtime would be spent in research, studio visits, scoping out potential spaces, and developing collector contacts, with business conducted from an ugly, cheap space (or maybe even home) which no one would ever need to see.

7/07/2009 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rather than go to all that time and trouble with disused spaces, any/all interested galleries just share the rent of one space and stage the project entity from there.

7/07/2009 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

these are intriguing.

George, a jpeg digitally cast is for now just a different "brochure" for marketing to increse traffic. (galleries vet by the jpeg, some clients will vet in a similar manner- then visit the gallery) Closing on that traffic is still a people interaction, the gallery still facilitates that, though as Franklin points out, it might be a interant space.

7/07/2009 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger Brandon Juhasz said...

AS much as I would like to think that shared spaces would work I just picture young models sharing an apartment and creating this terrible b*tchy competitive atmosphere, like the Big Brother house. Ego's are a part of art and I just feel like the concubines would really have to get a long.

Unfortunately, this is free market capitalism, uncompetitive business are failing. New one's will take the place when there is a need for expansion. Expand/contract.

Although I think franchise style would be cool, perhaps to keep cred there is a main ( small ) space somewhere in NY but then satelite galleries in other cities with lower rents as destination spots and showrooms? Or some derivative. It would allow artists to exist in cheaper places as well but still ties into the hub of NY.

7/07/2009 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Gam said...

Franklin and others pointed out - sorry I need to go to a different machine to post and I often miss peoples posts ...

how about - create an enclosed plexiglas box that you attach to the side of a taxi cab or a bus, or the metro, where you can place an actual piece of art .... yeah insurance and vanadalism aside - but what if the gallery was really ambulant and not simply temporary?

7/07/2009 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Okay, so the idea behind virtual solutions is to offer the gallery experience to more people - in a convenient way. But the physical nature of the gallery experience is vital. So, instead of high tech, consider low tech. Lease a semi tractor. Buy a used semi trailer and convert it. Skylights, track lighting, hardwood floors, white walls. Replace the rear doors with a glass wall and storefront-style door. Roll an aluminum stairway up to that door when you park the rig at shopping centers in upscale neighborhoods - up and down the east coast. Call the whole thing "Winkleman Gallery Collector Services" or some such. New art might go home with the furniture and accessories purchased at those upscale shopping centers.

7/07/2009 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

I'll say while art is the most moving, and probably important luxury good - it *is* a luxury and a pure one at that.

As such, how frugal the American public will become will really tell what sort of art market there will be, and by extension, what sort of landscape Chelsea will be for artists and gallerists.

And, Ed, I am very glad you posted a clarification that you were still going to be around!

7/07/2009 12:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Gam said...

Individual ownership of art might be a luxury but art in itself isn't.

Maybe co-ownership as in condo's would be an alterantive to strictly private property.

The semi-trailer is cool, how about a private car at the end of the subway-metro train?

7/07/2009 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

A little research shows you have music, science, and green-living barges there. Has anyone tried a gallery barge?

7/07/2009 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

As much as many would like to think otherwise, galleries are just another retail business in NYC and unlikely to be on the receiving end of any financial support from the city.

It's capitalism at work and the galleries that can't make it, should close their doors. New ones will open to replace them.

7Eleven is a good example of a roving gallery, last I heard they will be back at it in the fall.

My jpeg comment was aimed at the idea of the virtual gallery. The more layers of media between the original and the viewer, the greater the distortion.

7/07/2009 02:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there was something on artnet the other day about a number of artist run spaces popping up...mostly in the bo. as commercial galleries with high overhead begin to fail, these fill some of the vaccuum. it's the natural order of things. remember, there are probably 2x the number of galleries as there were 10 years ago. i don't think there's much that can be done to keep most of them afloat if the bottom has truly fallen out of the market for emerging/contemporary art.

7/07/2009 03:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Bill said...

An artist/friend who lived in Hong Kong had his studio in a semi trailer because of high rent and lack of space. It could work.

7/07/2009 03:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

++The more layers of media between the original and the viewer, the greater the distortion.

Exactly, and Baudriard announced the virtual gallery way back. Why focus on the original, when most
of your audience see your art through the JPEG? Thanks GAM for the info about Google 3D which
I think is neat.

I agree with EC, I think the white cube is done and overcooked with.
I like the idea of a gallery within an apartment. I think there is a small gallery in Chelsea which is an apartment, and it's lovely.

Showing in your own apart is not something I find debasing, bien au contraire. One can have a job and show on week-ends.

Or back at the main Gall: What is there under these white walls? Is it concrete? That could be
interesting. There is no need to paint every month.

Art is luxury is what is not?

Art is luxury because we view it as such. It's the syndrome of the Fabergé Egg: too luxurious you can't touch it and open the box anymore to see what's inside.
Art seen from the eyes of the vain.
What is left in society that we don't view from an economic angle? It's a system of thinking that need to be changed, and the youth is working on it (they are into
sharing for free everything their dads have worked on to establish economy, a generation more interested in accessibility than deprivation which is the source of luxury).

Cedric Casp

7/07/2009 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger Craig McCormick said...

I'd be interested to know in NYC at a gallery with emerging artists how most art sales have occurred in recent years - by that I mean what percentage were sold at the opening event, during the month at private meetings with buyers, at art fairs, through sales to corporate collections, etc. Art dealers are ultimately brokers, agents for the artist. The space itself doesn't seem terribly important.

I wonder if trying different models for selling might improve sales. A dealer that does well on the buzz of the opening event might try an auction sale. A dealer that does well with corporate clients might try hanging work at a corporate party or reception or just in some of those vacant office spaces at big firms. I'm the board chair of a midwestern art center and we even have a wedding registry for our artists. Bottom line: get the work in front of the right people and sell them on ideas and investment. By whatever means necessary.

In a few cities I have seen co-ops which include artist studios and galleries. This seems like a more economically sensible way to generate traffic. Alternative spaces can be more interesting than museum-like galleries. Perhaps what has been lost in the NY art scene is the memory of how the contemporary art scene there emerged - from raw spaces and big ideas.

As for virtual or online sales - Jen Bekman's 20x200 seems to be the only successful online contemporary art source. Maybe big editions and cheap prints is viable right now. It certainly is reaching a new class of buyer.

7/07/2009 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Cedric: when most of your audience see your art through the JPEG?

No, the audience only sees the jpeg, not the art. See JPEGs, Details and Density for a further discussion. I would agree it is possible to make art for the electronic media but it is naive to suggest that one can experience a painting through a jpeg.

FYI, the "white cube" was a result of other artists and curators seeing James Turrell's studio in Venice California circa 1968. To my knowledge this was the first pure white exhibition space made specifically to show art. At the time most galleries were in converted apartments. A new model? How about something between a gallery and a club, open late with art integrated into the experience, you'd just need an eye and a liquor license.

Art exists because of enlightened patronage, the support of kings and robber barons. The discussion here is fretting over penny ante concerns that the readers art will no longer have a venue to be sold. That somehow the closing of 50 or 60 galleries is going to put an end to it all. A lot of so called "artists" will find other employment, the attrition rate has always been high. This is especially true when times get tough and "being an artist" isn't quite so easy or so much fun, welcome to reality.

All these suggestions to save some gallery, put it in a shipping container, or turn it into a rave, are self serving and bogus ways of having someone else take responsibility for you, tour art and your sales. The galleries that close, close for a lot of different reasons, not just because they cannot make the rent. Maybe the gallerist is just tired of worrying every month, maybe the artists are a pain in the ass, maybe the collectors are a pain in the ass or maybe they got rich in the bubble and just want to slow down and enjoy life. Like Palin says, "It's no fun being a governor in a recession, I quit!"

So while I am sympathetic about the recent gallery closings, it is all part of the business cycle which periodically sweeps out the businesses which are underfunded, mismanaged, or have a poor product to sell. The fault lies just as much with the artists as it does with the gallerists or the economy.

On the other hand, I have a huge amount of respect for the energy and invention of those who find a way to exhibit art, to make it visible to the culture without necessarily being totally fixated upon sales. 7Eleven gallery is a roving space run by three women all under the age of 25. They used their connections to find space for roving exhibitions and give young curators a chance to organize an exhibition. It's underground, high/lo profile, good/bad art, but full of "can do" energy which has marked every great period in modern/contemporary art history.

7/07/2009 07:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

+++it is naive to suggest that one ++can experience a painting +++through a jpeg.

Hmm? You didn't understand me, George. I meant: if most people see the JPEG, why bother
make an original (aka, indeed, make JPEG or think art in a way that implies that most people see the JPEG). I'm not saying the JPEG is the same as the original. I mean, and I come back to this example often, who really know the Mona Lisa when most people on this planet will die only having seen the JPEG? (most widespread art image in the world).

White Cube:

1968 feels a little late to start the history of the white cube. I think it started with installation
art: Klein, Beuys and Nauman, but even Duchamp earlier. The minimalists probably had an influence: they were themselves emulating currents in architecture (functionalist, structuralist,
post-bauhaus, etc..) where the human touch should be replaced by the slick machine-made industrial. While white cubes are painted by hand, the result is not supposed to look "man-made". It's opposite to a humanist concept of design, and that's why I think it's dated.

+++How about something between a +++gallery and a club

A great idea but the night people are very indulgent with the mafia.
There was such a night gallery in the "Gay Village" here but it
didn't last. Though they probably didn't do it right, and there is
not a strong clientele here unless you're kitsch.

(By the way, here in town there is an artist named Corno who is celebrated by the press (huge articles) as being "internationally
known". She is represented by Gallery Opera in New York, a place I've never heard of, and they say that she has the priviledged of being hanged among the masters. To me, this art reeks of a kitsch phenomena. But everybody seems serious: Corno, the great canadian artist. Sigh... I bet they never heard of David Altmejd.)

I disgressed, but Speaking of David and the best of canadian
contemporary art, it's all happening in art centres, so I'm
with George that the end of the art market would not see the end of art, and people who think art depends on the market (including artists) would simply pave the way to people with other interests and endeavours.

The economy of tomorrow will be a potluck. I am confident it will be. So any solutions that sound like a potluck is there with 21st century.

Cedric Casp

(everybody bring your fireworks!)

7/07/2009 11:43:00 PM  
Blogger Pax North said...

Lobby city council to allow reductions in property taxes on gallery or other holdings in exchange for reduced rents for 'cultural activity sites' (ie galleries)

7/08/2009 12:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I were a medium to small sized gallery owner today in NYC-Chelsea I would close the space and move to the net. I would make sure I have an extraordinary web page, blog and vibrant brand name. I would rent spaces for a month or 2, 2 to 3 times a year tops, I would have 75% group shows and do one European and one domestic art fair a year. I would advertise regularly in one mag only. This plan needed to be put in place 18 months ago. While you had reserves. Achievable still. That's the future folks.

As for artists, the worst is yet to come in my opinion. Hang on. Lower your prices, donate good stuff to benefits as much as you are asked, make a point of having very low reserves. Keep your name out there. Work on your best ideas and only those. Never miss a free lecture of your peers and always talk. Talk, talk, talk. Party and drink less but show up. Get in shape. Already the new generation is here. Stand your ground dears.

....remember me?

7/08/2009 02:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The long term fix to a gallery's overhead problem is simple, if not easy to accomplish: Don't Pay Rent! Make a long term plan to find and OWN the building. I know of one gallery that has been in business for 40 years, operating out of a 1920's Craftsman, which the dealer actually lived in for the first 25 years.

7/08/2009 02:12:00 AM  
Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

Whether you own a building or rent space in one should make little difference. You will always be faced with "opportunity cost" - meaning - you are always passing up rent that you could be collecting by renting the space out.

Also ... it makes you a landlord. You have to be sure you want to buy a building, tie up the capital and deal with tenants. Though for sure the rent won't be raised on you ... it may be better to figure out how to survive without that subsidy.

I think the central issue is there is a squeeze and shakeout underway in most segments of the economy. When things start to improve again, we'll see a very different economic landscape.

7/08/2009 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger George said...


I think I'm right about Turrell and the clean white gallery space. I know him and was there at that time so I remember the response from the art community. It was an effort of architectural purity and either hit the zeitgeist right between the eyes, and/or was extremely influential for gallery design. The exact date may have been a year or two earlier but minimalism was just starting. Like jpegs history books give a compressed approximation of what's actually there.

The jpeg response is directed towards the "virtual gallery" replacing the physical gallery issue. Seeing a reproduction is not a substitute for seeing the original artwork. It may be all we have at times but there is no way you can know anything about a Pollock without standing in front of it.

Gallery Opera is a successful tourist gallery, that all the years I lived in SoHo, I never bothered to enter.

Finally, I didn't say anything about the "end of the art market," only that there would be gallery closings and it doesn't really matter. There are more galleries than there were 15 years ago in the last recession and fewer than there were in 2007. Life goes on.

7/08/2009 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Anon says, ...I would close the space and move to the net....

It's called "private dealing."
There are a lot of those and it's not the same as having a permanent gallery space.

7/08/2009 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Thanks for the answer, George. I appreciate the perspective from someone
who've been there. I find that fascinating. You could almost write a book. Not a heavy theoretical book. Just a general testimony of how you've
seen the artworld in New York evolve through the years.


Cedric C

7/08/2009 06:10:00 PM  
Blogger Got Art? said...

I have read with great interest the previous comments on this blog post. I am the owner of a "Gallery without Walls." For nine years I have sold art in alternative venues. I've exhibited in book stores, at private corporate events, at churches, at my home, in a high-end respected rental gallery, and also through the Phantom Galleries LA program which takes empty commercial spaces and exhibits artwork 24/7 in the windows. They host a reception once a month for guests to see additional work, which is brought in the for night, but the spaces are empty otherwise. A postcard dispenser on the door gives everyone additional information about the artist and his/her website. Landlords like this program because the building looks occupied, and there is less graffiti applied to the buildings. Had my best year ever last year from following up with clients met by exhibiting in these types of alternative spaces. A fixed retail location...is not absolutely necessary.

7/13/2009 06:54:00 PM  

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