Pace Gallery has followed New Yorks collectors out of the city and opened a temporary space in East Hampton. Pace Gallery East Hampton: photo: Sylvia Muller, courtesy of the Mill House Inn
As the art world adapts to a reality where bricks-and-mortar galleries can pose a health risk and grows more comfortable with online sales, many dealers are wondering if it is worth the steep rent to stay in New York. What was once known as a traditional gallery district could be a thing of the past in the wake of Covid-19 as art hubs begin to decentralise rapidly in favour of more remote or temporary spaces.
Shani Strand of Housing gallery says she is excited by the trend. Housing has been operating itinerantly for the past two years since its original building in its original Brooklyn neighbourhood was sold without notice. Strand says that decentralisation is ultimately a good thing for galleries as it “allows you to introduce new ideas about outreach and communities” and to reprioritise what contemporary art can do. Moreover, “were able to curate with continuous ideas and varying interests over more realistic courses of time”, she says, rather than needing to programme an ongoing schedule of shows just to keep sales up and lights on.
The migration out of Chelsea started before the virus spread. Indeed, the well-documented move of major mid-tier galleries Uptown or to the Tribeca area in Lower Manhattan has been ongoing for a few years. But even international blue-chip firms are now considering sites further afield from the main gallery drag, post-pandemic.
Hauser & Wirth just announced that it will open a new two-story outpost in July in Southampton on New Yorks Long Island. It follows Pace, Skarstedt, Van de Weghe Fine Art, Sothebys and the newly formed Alone Gallery—co-founded by Max Levai, who formerly headed up Marlborough. All have opened spaces in the Hamptons, the costly coastal community about an hour outside of New York to which their collector base fled when the city shut down in March.
A storied artists' haunt and a favourite summertime playground for the wealthy, the Hamptons is already home to a small but dedicated contingent of dealers like Eric Firestone, Ross + Kramer and Harper's Books. Gordon Veneklasen of Michael Werner gallery says he has had a home in the Hamptons for over 30 years and has always enjoyed the slower pace of life there. Since lockdown he has been in the Springs area—the former haunt of Jackson Pollock and Wilhelm De Kooning—"and I haven't left… I've not been in one place for more than a month in three decades," he says. The dealer announced today that he is opening a space in East Hampton on 10 July. Covid-19 caused a number of luxury brands to not open in East Hampton this summer, he explains, creating an opportunity for some galleries to take over the vacant units.
"I dont think this means the end of New York or London as art capitals, and we have no intention of ending our presences there, but both places are essentially on hold," Veneklasen says. "It is an exciting time to try something new."
While "the Hamptons thing makes a lot of sense”, says dealer Todd von Ammon, the exodus out of New York is not a new phenomenon. Von Ammon worked with Tribecas Team Gallery for a decade before opening his own gallery—in Washington, DC, rather than New York. “If you can convince artists to do shows, the sales will follow, especially now that everything is being digested through images online. The whole thing has been flattened,” he says, adding that he has his sights set on opening a second space in Baltimore in the near future.
Other galleries who have decamped to smaller cities include Tif Sigfrids, who moved from Los Angeles to Athens, Georgia, in 2018, and the artist and curator JoRead More – Source