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A hard look at the New York gallery’s tumultuous scene as dealers close and move

Every week Artnet News brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column with original scoops. But this week, our groundbreaking columnist does something very different: he takes a look at the state of the New York gallery scene at a moment of change and upheaval.

THE STATE OF AFFAIRS IN NEW YORK

In New York’s art world, gallery closures are the only thing people want to talk about right now. It makes for grim cocktail conversations, but it makes sense: last week, to the surprise of many, David Lewis said he would close his doors for good at the end of his current group exhibition ‘Everyone Loves Picabia’. (It would be a run-don’t-walk kind of show even if he wasn’t shuttering, with a great Kippenberger. Do not miss it.)

From where I stand (as someone whose job certainly benefits from a healthy market), the outlook looks a bit bleak. Since August 2023, at least thirteen galleries with locations in New York have gone bankrupt, and seven have already closed this year. How much has the scene changed? And what causes the shifts? To get an idea of ​​where things stand, I did some research. Let’s dive in.

First, here are the closures:

JTT – August 2023, after 11 years in business.
Malin Gallery – August 2023, eight years active.
Foxy Production – September 2023, 20 years in business.
Strange thoughts – September 2023, 11 years in business.
Denny Gallery – October 2023, 10 years in business.
Cheim & Reading – December 2023, 26 years in business.
Washburn Gallery – January 2024, 53 years in business.
Alexander & Bonin – January 2024, 28 years in business.
Helena Anrather – March 2024, seven years active.
Fourteen days Institute – April 2024, correct years in business.
Betty Cunningham Gallery – April 2024, 20 years in business.
Marlborough Gallery – June 2024, 78 years in business.
David Lewis Gallery – July 2024, 11 years in business.

Although there are some outliers on that list, there is a clear trend for galleries to stop doing so after about a decade. Why is that the lifespan of so many? I asked around and a few ideas kept popping up.

For starters, after about a decade or so, successful dealers have typically developed a large following for a number of artists, but as they strive to maintain momentum, problems can arise. Prices have to rise with every solo show an artist does, but the gallery’s clients may not be able to afford those prices, or if they can, they may go along – with the popular artist – to spend their money on a bigger gallery.

A prominent Los Angeles-based dealer I spoke with also noted the specific trajectory the art market and broader economy have taken over the past decade. Dealers who opened in 2014 enjoyed the boom that followed the 2008 economic crisis, as well as an explosion of interest in emerging art during the pandemic. “Times are tough right now,” the dealer said, “so we’re looking at who really wants to do this, and who got into it because it felt like something easy to do.”

Jos Baer, who ran a gallery of the same name for ten years from 1985 to 1994, said the problems often start a few years before the end. “If you’re struggling personally or financially, you’ll probably give it a few extra years to see if things get better,” he told me.

The standard way the gallery model functions is hurting younger businesses, as Baer sees. “You still have to do nine fairs and the same number of shows, plus staff,” he said. “Nothing has changed yet in the model to make it a more efficient company.”

But you know I’m a glass-half-full kind of person, so I’d also like to note that we’ve seen a number of young and mid-career galleries take inventive measures to weather the harsher climate. First, smaller dealers work with megas part representation of popular artists. The exercise is not without controversy– and it remains to be seen how fair and sustainable these arrangements are – but the past two years have witnessed:

Andreas Kreps co-represent Raymond Saunders of David Zwirner
Nicola Vassell Gallery co-representative Uman of Hauser & Wirth
Business gallery co-representative Ambera Wellmann of Hauser & Wirth
David Kordanski co-representative Lauren Halsey of Gagosian
Chateau Shatto co-representative Emma McIntyre with David Zwirner
Mennour, Gallery 303, And i8 Gallery co-representative Alicia Kwade of Pace

And even as some once-promising galleries have turned out their lights for the last time, there are signs of growth, with a new generation of dealers entering the scene. Startups include Sara is global, Micki Meng, GEMSTONESAnd Elliot Templeton Fine Arts. Some have hybridized their gallery model with a consulting side hustle, or, in the case of Jack Pierson’s Elliot Templeton, an art practice. Many have chosen to rent somewhat remote places.

Meanwhile, at the higher end, New York has become fertile ground for out-of-towners looking to open a new branch. As of early 2023, the following companies have arrived:

Goodman Gallerywith branches in Cape Town, Johannesburg, London
*Nino Mier GalleryLos Angeles (although it will close there soon), Brussels
*Matthew Brown Gallery, Los Angeles
Richard Saltoun Gallery, London, Rome
*JDJ, Garrison, New York
*Ruttkowski;68, Paris, Dusseldorf, Cologne
*Stephen Friedman, London
Nicodim, Los Angeles
White Cube, London, Seoul, Hong Kong, Paris, Seoul
*Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles
David Kordanski, Los Angeles
*indicates gallery opened in Tribeca

The energy coming from LA to New York continues to be exciting, and several smaller outfits from Tinseltown have been trying out Manhattan lately: Espionage projects just finished a busy show in SoHo, Parker Gallery joined forces with Micki Meng to bring over a Golden Coast heavy group last year, and Sebastian Gladstone is planning a pop-up this fall.

The recent closures come amid Tribeca’s rise as a major hub for commercial galleries. (Five of the recent transplants have settled there, as I noted above.) As some people have said to me recently, gallery migration has been accompanied by closures in the past: about a decade ago, when a number of dealers left Chelsea for Uptown and Downtown Manhattan, some of their peers, closed their doors, as noted by Robin Pogrebin in the New York Time in 2017. “What is widening the gap?” Pogrebin wrote. “Sustainable real estate in gallery districts like Chelsea, and the proliferation of expensive art fairs, where collectors now do most of their browsing and buying.”

These are the New York galleries that have made the move to Tribeca since 2023:

Alexander Gray by Chelsea
Marian Goedeman by In the center of the city
Lio Malca from Chelsea
James Fuentes of the Lower East Side
Harkawik of the Lower East Side
Blum of the Upper East Side
Shrine Gallery by Chinatown
Almine Rec of the Upper East Side
Timothy Taylor from Chelsea

The major changes are of course not limited to New York. Tidy simply cut ties with Brussels Brussels space, And Perrotin recently withdrew from his partnership with a secondary market venture in Paris, but in gallery-rich Manhattan the shifts were particularly intense.

Will there be more closures and more big changes? Even with the season coming to an end here, I don’t expect things to slow down. Hold on to your hats.

WE HEAR

For my readers who are critics: mega collector and proud New York Mets owner Steven Cohen is looking for feedback on the merchandise Joel Mesler made for the team… A$AP Rocky recently visited Leelee Kimmel‘s show in New York at Almine Rec… Keep an eye on paintings by Jay Miriam in the new season of Hacking… Artist Rashid Johnson rented The swimming pool part of The grill for the birthday of his artist wife Sheree Hovsepianand even serenaded her Frank Sinatra style for what has to be the most enviable birthday party I’ve seen in a while… Painter Sara Slappey has said goodbye to her gallery in New York, Sargent’s daughter…According to the caustic Instagram page @marfamemes, Rik Rubin has another building set on fire in West TexasIlona Stallerin other words Cicciolinaalso known as the Italian politician that once was Jeff Koons woman and muse, pops up again this weekend Rome for a rare execution of uncertain content (tipsters in the Eternal City, keep me informed!)…

PARTY OF THE WEEK

Photo by Annie Armstrong.

Last night in New York, the alternative space White columns organized the beloved annual benefit auction, and the mood was particularly high, as just an hour before kickoff, the former president Donald J. Trump was found guilty of 34 crimes by a jury of his peers. “It is an auspicious night in our lives, and a night when we will all remember where we were!” the director of space, Matthew Higgssaid.

Among those present for the auspicious evening Horatio Street were artists Dustin Yellin And Cindy Shermanwriters Jerry Saltz And Linda Yablonskitrader Tara Downsand the director of the Drawing Center, Laura Hopman, among many others. The optimistic mood led to spirited auctions – both silent and live, led by Higgs himself. A bit further into the latter Calvin Mark selled for $15,000a Huma Babha sculpture sold for $20,000and a painting of Denzil Forrester selled for $37,000.

After a shaky auction season in New York earlier this month, the scene at White Columns was both a palette cleanser and an unofficial kickoff event for the summer. Art Basel, big group shows and the beach await, but I’ll see you here next week.

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