You can’t call Becky Smith’s Bellwether Gallery a failure. She represented great talent–like Adam Cvijanovic–and had blue-chip collectors buying from her. Katya Kazakhina details the forces that drove Bellwether out of business on Bloomberg:
Bellwether joins a growing list of casualties in New York’s contemporary-art scene — about 15 mid-level galleries in the past year. Smith’s decade encapsulates the scene’s rise and retreat, as she saw her gallery’s revenue surge to seven figures, her artists morph from unknowns to museum holdings, and her success attract the interest of outside investors.
“There was a period when hundreds of thousands of dollars were being poured into my artists, emerging artists, unknown artists,” she said. “That was crazy and unprecedented. And then the bottom fell out.” […]
Between 2003 and 2007, Bellwether’s annual revenue increased tenfold, to just under $2 million, Smith said. She placed her artists in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The gallery’s frequent clients included UBS AG, Jerry Speyer, chairman of Tishman Speyer Properties LP and advertising mogul Charles Saatchi. […]
Revenue in the first quarter of 2008 was between $300,000 and $400,000, Smith said, compared with $600,000 in the year- earlier period. During the first quarter this year, she said revenue dropped to $80,000. […]
After struggling for 12 “lonely” months, she decided to close down. “I couldn’t stop crying about what I was about to do,” she said. “All my education, all my money, relationships went into the gallery.”
To survive the recession, “you need to have at least one artist at all times that everybody is chasing,” said Josh Baer, publisher of Baer Faxt, an art-industry newsletter.