James Tarmy has a great profile on Bloomberg of Michels Maccarone who has grown into three galleries in New York and Los Angeles with a devoted band of artists like Nate Lowman, Cecily Brown and Alex Hubbard. Here she describes the heedless rush she made into newer and bigger spaces to support her artists:
Maccarone had to pay artists’ studio and production costs upfront (which is standard for the industry), and these would only be recouped once the artwork sold, a process that could take months or years—if it sold at all. In 2006, without putting thought into the financial implications, she moved the gallery to a bigger space in the West Village. “It was very expensive to renovate, and I didn’t have the money,” she says.
Overextended, Maccarone teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. “I would go online and look for jobs,” she says. “I was maybe going to get a real estate license. I was like, ‘This is it. It’s over.’ ” Some artists, unpaid for years, left the gallery. Others stayed out of loyalty. “When times were chaotic financially, it was still worth it,” says the artist Nate Lowman, who’s been represented by Maccarone since 2003. “It’s the richest experience I’ve ever had. She loves art, not because it’s expensive, but because it’s interesting. She’s an intellectual, always present and always thinking.”
In 2007, Maccarone had what she calls a “come to Jesus” moment and began to take on artists whose studio costs were lower. It took two years to rein in costs and return to profitability, but by 2009, she’d reached a point, she says, “where I could finally breathe.” Today, she says, “the gallery makes millions of dollars a year, obviously. A gallery this size wouldn’t be in business if it didn’t.” She adds, though, “Every time I make money, I immediately blow it, taking on an artist or funding a project.” She expanded her West Village space in 2012, so she now has two galleries in the same building that can show exhibitions simultaneously.