Saturday, June 20, 2009

Reality Check

Marilyn K. Yee/The New York Times
The Charles Cowles Gallery, which is closing this month.

Is really happening folks and as much as I hate to help broadcast it, the truth is in black and white. I am on hold from purchasing anything till the fall. More gallery closings coming soon. Please read great article by Dorothy Spears for the NY Times. It is more than a reality check!

This Summer, Some Galleries Are Sweating

Published: June 19, 2009
Postscript Appended

IT’S hard to believe that only nine months ago art dealers everywhere were still dreaming up plans for vast multinational expansions. Since September, however, the contemporary art market has careened from boom to bust. Nowhere has that reversal of fortune been more sharply felt than in New York, whose galleries represent the full spectrum of the art world’s pecking order.

Some two dozen galleries here have folded. The most notable among them — Clementine, Guild & Greyshkul, Roebling Hall and Rivington Arms — are midsize galleries, where the reputations of up-and-coming artists first gain traction.

Aside from slashing prices or deepening discounts, art dealers across the city have been coping not just by laying off employees but by dropping artists with poor sales records, creating partnerships with other galleries and reaching out in desperation to tried-and-true customers, many of whom were priced out of the market during its peak. Still, with the exception of several blue-chip galleries who show well-known artists, foot traffic in Chelsea and other gallery precincts has thinned markedly where crowds jostled just a year ago.

Now, on the heels of the annual Art Basel fair in Switzerland, dealers are bracing for the notoriously quiet summer months. “Art galleries typically bring in very little revenue from mid-June to October,” said Josh Baer, founder of the art industry newsletter Baer Faxt, “which is already pretty tough on the cash flow. But when business is off 50 to 80 percent, one wonders how many galleries will reopen in September.”

The most recent casualty, the Charles Cowles Gallery, set to close before the end of the month, will leave a gaping storefront on West 24th Street, the heart of the Chelsea gallery district. After 30 years of selling art, Mr. Cowles said in a recent interview, he was ready to retire. But the economic slide left little room for hesitation. “It’s shocking how bad business has been,” he said. During the big New York auctions last month, he said, “I didn’t see a single major collector in the gallery.”

Also absent in Manhattan these days are the young Wall Street executives who in flusher times routinely dropped the occasional $10,000 on an artwork. Now it’s the wealthiest collectors who are calling the shots. And while they continue to buy, albeit more slowly, they’ve been taking far fewer risks, favoring bigger galleries, like Gagosian and David Zwirner, whose menu of services ranges from discreet backroom sales to name-brand artists with a long history of museum shows and works in prestigious collections.

“What’s going on with the collectors,” said Roland Augustine, co-owner of the Luhring Augustine Gallery in Chelsea and president of the Art Dealers Association of America, “is that there’s far more selectivity in the buying at all levels.”

The tougher times have led many dealers to cancel expensive installations and fat, splashy catalogs, keep exhibits running longer, ask artists to cover their own production costs and drastically limit their participation in art fairs, once considered a boon to business. Although the downturn affects everybody, some younger dealers have responded by promoting low-priced artworks and forging collaborative relationships with fellow dealers.

At Schroeder Romero on West 27th Street, for example, Sara Jo Romero said that Compound Editions, a joint venture founded last fall with the neighboring Winkleman Gallery, offers artworks produced in multiples in the $100 to $300 price range. “That’s been a big success for us,” Ms. Romero said. “Also we don’t have any employees, and our space is off the beaten track,” she added, which helps to minimize her gallery’s costs.

Tracy Williams, whose gallery is in the West Village, is also focusing on lower-priced art. Seeing her bottom line plummet in December, Ms. Williams said, she asked a consultant to take a look at her books. After being told, “This is what you did last year, this is what you’re going to do next year, this where you have to cut back,” she said, she let go one of two full-time employees.

Continue reading here:

And listen to three art experts here:


Spike said...

I just read Charles Cowles is closing. How sad. They were one of the first galleries I frequented on W. B'way way back when.

What will happen to Burtynsky and Divola?

ruben said...

They show internationally at several other galleries besides, I am sure dealers Gagosian or Pace Wildenstein will like to represent Burtynsky here in NYC.

Spike said...

From Mr. Divola's website:

My dealer in New York, Charles Cowles, is apparently retiring. The continued
representation of my work in New York is unresolved at this juncture.
All enquiries about the sale or exhibition of my work should be
directed to me using the contact information on this site.


Odd and sad at the same time. Who is looking to enlarge their roster? I've read galleries are trimming their rosters down.