Will this be the recession that demolishes the retail art gallery as the mainstay of the art world? Already many galleries have made noises that art fairs are essential to their business but walk-in gallery space where shows are mounted may not be. Here’s a story from a San Francisco paper that puts some real numbers behind the issue. The story discusses a number of galleries giving up retail space due to high rent, including Don Soker:
“I’m not looking at this point to do a normal gallery,” said Soker. “It’s not cost effective.”
Soker said he pays $32 a square foot for 1,000 square feet or $3,200 a month, but casual foot traffic is one-quarter of what it was before the dot-com bust. “I’m paying twice what I was paying when I moved in here 11 years ago, and I am only doing 20 percent of my business as walk-in anyway,” Soker said. (The rest of his business is by appointment.) “Now I’m lucky if I get 20 or 25 people in here a day. … It’s crazy to be here.” [ . . . ]
Soker said that fewer people travel to San Francisco to buy art; many now go to large national art shows or buy online. And he said there’s a “lost generation.” Few of his clients are under 40, even though his average price point is $2,500 to $3,000. Compounding the current problem, corporate art sales have dried to a trickle.
Then there are the margins of doing gallery shows. At a recent well-reviewed exhibition, Soker sold six paintings, almost all to existing clients, and said all his money went to the artist and the landlord.
SF Art Galleries Close to Public to Cut Their Costs (SF Business Times)