The Chicago Tribune takes stock of Chicago’s wide range of art galleries and finds that the high end of rare artwork is still quite strong and the low end of emerging artists still has a coterie of hard-working dealers willing to hustle to make a buck. All in all, despite some closings and threatening landlords, Chicago’s art dealers are staying business:
Compared with New York, where The New York Times reported in June that more than 20 galleries had closed, Chicago’s leading art districts have remained relatively stable. River North, the most established gallery area, has seen some businesses move or otherwise constrict their operations, but the bulk are still standing. The West Loop has suffered a few closings, while empty storefronts dot Pilsen’s developer-designed art district. […]
For Carrie Secrist, who relocated her 17-year-old eponymous gallery from River North to the West Loop in 2003, business was humming until a few months into 2008, when buyers began delaying decisions to buy art — a dynamic noticed by several gallery owners. By the beginning of this year, Secrist said, “it seemed like everyone was just frightened to spend money. It seemed entirely psychological. [Colleagues and I] were looking at each other, thinking, ‘Will anyone ever buy art again?’ “ The free fall of what had been a thriving — and some say overvalued — art market has changed the way many galleries do business. David Leonardis took drastic actions. He closed his River North outpost in May[…]
“People have rethought some of their programs and have presented work that’s more affordable, and that does tend to be younger emerging artists,” said Linda Blumberg, executive director of the New York-based Art Dealers Association of America. The up-and-comers’ gain may be the more established artists’ loss. “I think the ones who are really suffering are the veterans,” Schneider said, “because they’ve gone from selling five or six pieces a month to one every other month.” […]
Richard Gray, whose 46-year-old self-named gallery has locations in the John Hancock Center and Manhattan, said the first half of 2009 was “as strong a first six months of the year as we’ve ever had.” His contemporary-art sales were down, as was the overall number of transactions, but the gallery more than compensated through the sale of some classic modern works, including more than one Picasso this year.
Gallery Owners Feel Pinch of Recession (Chicago Tribune)