New York Galleries Emerge from the Flood

posted by – 11/06/12 @ 11:55am

Hurricane Sandy devastated New York last week, and the galleries in lower Manhattan were not spared. The Chelsea neighborhood is home to one of the largest concentration of galleries in the world, and most of them suffered crippling damage from flooding. Spaces such as David Zwirner and Gagosian experienced up to 4 or 5 feet of flooding. While all were damaged in some capacity, some galleries were more prepared than others. Many were able to move works to higher levels, or to off site storage locations. However, the unlucky ones had pieces on the ground floor or basement levels, which are now completely destroyed. In addition to valuable artwork, flooding damaged the spaces themselves and many were left without electricity for days. Many owners still have a positive outlook. Most paintings can be restored and already walls and floors are being repaired. Gallery owners agree that the biggest struggle going forward will be to hang new shows in time for auction week in mid-November, and the upcoming Art Basel Miami fair in December. With collections depleted and limited display space, these events will be crucial for galleries to make up the losses they experienced in the storm. The destruction of this center of the art world will certainly have effects on the New York art market at large. One gallery owner, Magda Sawon, who spoke to The Daily Beast, “worried that, overall, the effect on the art world might be profound. ‘It’s the collapse of the middle class, extrapolated to the gallery world,’ she said. She was voicing a thought heard from many of her peers: that international megadealers will pull through just fine, and that the tiny baby spaces will find a way to survive, but that the gallery scene’s middle—‘where the most interesting art happens,’ according to Sawon—may get hollowed out”. Large and small, all galleries were effected, but in the spirit of recovery many have rallied to help.  Volunteers helped clean up the basement of the beloved Printed Matter gallery and bookstore. In addition, national organizations such as the Art Dealers Association of America have put together aid programs. Artists too are receiving support from a number of organizations, both private and public. A full list of resources is available here. The full effects of Sandy on the art community of New York remain to be seen, but in the meantime recovery is underway and our thoughts go out to those in need.


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