Roberta Smith offered a survey of the state of dealers–and, by extension, the art market–in The New York Times late last week. If you missed it, here’s some of the interesting observations. Though she opens with one gallerist who is dour about the overall market and accuses anyone who says they’re selling work of being a liar; she closes with another who says he’s been doing well and that the slump is far better than the early 1990s:
Despite reports from the auction world that a recovery is under way, Manhattan’s gallery scene feels all pins and needles as it heads into fall. Things aren’t as bad as many expected them to be, but they could get worse.
Fragile is the word Knight Landesman, publisher of Artforum magazine, used to describe the current gallery mood: “Fragile and hoping for business.” Ad pages in Artforum’s September issue are down to 206 from 363 a year ago, a decline of more than 40 percent.
An art gallery is like a single-cell organism: it is the crudest but also the most essential life form in the art-world food chain. It is among the easiest of public forums to start up, and therefore the most efficient means of introducing new blood into the system. All it takes is one person with the single-minded determination to get the work of an artist or two seen and a reasonably clean, well-lighted space of almost any size — something that is becoming a more affordable option as rents soften and storefronts, even in some of Chelsea’s chic new condos, sit vacant. […]
As it turned out, it is hard to know if this summer has brought much more than the usual in the way of closings, along with relocations, expansions, contractions, splits and alliances. So far the list of galleries that have closed is barely two dozen long, and only if you include galleries that closed several months before the crash; galleries that, to be blunt, will not be missed; neophyte galleries that had yet to establish either a financial or critical foothold; and galleries that closed for reasons only partly related to the market, or not at all.
The much lamented Guild & Greyshkul in SoHo, for example, was run by three artists who say they had always intended to return full time to their own work. Rivington Arms, in the East Village, closed because the interests of its two partners diverged. And several galleries have closed in order to regroup and reopen, at least according to their owners, including Cristinerose, Smith-Stewart, the Proposition and Feature. Bose Pacia, the South Asian art gallery lately of Chelsea but now of Dumbo, relocated to regroup and has plans to reopen in a larger space in Manhattan in a year or two, said Rebecca Davis, its director. […]
The Mood of the Market, as Measured in the Galleries (New York Times)