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Artifacts | Chelsea's New Normal - NYTimes.com

12/5/12 10:56 AM

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Artifacts | Chelsea’s New Normal Culture By LINDA YABLONSKY November 6, 2012, 5:00 pm4 Comments

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Artifacts | Chelsea's New Normal - NYTimes.com

12/5/12 10:56 AM

artist and David Zwirner, New YorkDavid Zwirner Gallery will reopen with Diana Thater’s “Chernobyl.” Last Friday, when lights in downtown Manhattan began powering on and subway service was partly restored, the West Chelsea gallery district was still a disaster area. During the night of Hurricane Sandy, a veritable tsunami from the Hudson River literally drowned galleries located nearest to 11th Avenue, between West 19th and West 27th Street. The rush of water was so violent that it warped iron gates as if they were cardboard, tore off walls and flooded basements and back rooms where many galleries stored their inventories. Since then, one after another, the e-mails have been coming in: openings postponed for an estimated two or three weeks. Or, more chillingly, “Closed until further notice.” Because the fall auctions bring collectors to New York from all over the world, this time of year is usually Chelsea’s high season. But the impact from the storm is more than financial. It’s cultural and emotional too. The dealer Carol Greene’s eighth-floor gallery on West 26th Street escaped the flood, but she spoke for the whole community when she said, “This isn’t just a job for us. It’s our lives.” Going into the weekend, as other parts of Manhattan took steps to return to normal operations, normalcy in Chelsea remained an abstraction. There was too much salvage work to be done — and fast. After pumping and sweeping out the water, each gallery had to cope with the damage to its physical space and, most urgently, to its artworks. Each piece had to be uncrated, unframed or removed from stretchers and examined, its condition documented in photographs and on paper, then packed up again and sent to a limited number of restorers for drying and repair. Though much of the art can be restored, a great many works are beyond saving. Meanwhile, hazmat-suited demolition and construction teams have been working with gallery employees to remove up to five feet of waterlogged wallboard before mildew and mold could set in. Though art can be insured against damage from many different threats, floods from a storm are generally not one of them. The cost of flood insurance can be astronomical and, at least up to now, no one ever needed it. And at this point, it’s not at all clear how art insurers will respond.

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Artifacts | Chelsea's New Normal - NYTimes.com

12/5/12 10:56 AM

Linda Yablonsky for The New York TimesJanine Foeller (left) and Jane Hait (right), partners in Wallspace Gallery, pore through the wreckage of their storage space. Jessica Silverman, a visiting dealer from San Francisco, came by to offer support. Larger, blue-chip galleries have the financial wherewithal to rebuild quickly and — pending the restoration of damaged artworks — reopen sooner than smaller galleries that exist from month to month and may not reopen at all. How to pay rent, staff and conservators, meet the bills for reconstruction and replace computers and servers (where galleries store archives and images) during an indefinite period of no income from sales? How to approach collectors who may have purchased works but not yet paid for it? Then there are those who have paid but not yet taken delivery. Artists, too, are facing a painful dilemma. Recent photographs and other reproducible works can be reprinted. But artists can’t remake one-of-a-kind works. They can only make new ones, which wouldn’t be the same. I could see the gravity of the situation on the faces of every dealer whose gallery I visited on daily tours of the area over the last few days. Most were clearly in shock and visibly exhausted from the cleanup effort. Because the city — including many people in the art world — has been focused on repair and relief efforts in the Rockaways and on Staten Island, where the storm was most destructive, and working to get the power back on, the subways running and the gas stations refueled, the galleries were on their own. Art restorers and insurance adjusters were on the scene, taking notes, handing out business cards, offering step-by-step advice — for a price. “It’s a time to be compassionate,” said Andrea Rosen, whose two spaces on West 24th Street were both inundated, one more than the other. “We live in a community with lots of movers and shakers,” she added. “This is a good opportunity to be generous.” She’s right. I know that people could care less about galleries they perceive as elitist and intimidating, which http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/06/artifacts-chelseas-new-normal/

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Artifacts | Chelsea's New Normal - NYTimes.com

12/5/12 10:56 AM

they can be. But in my experience, dealers who detect genuine interest in their exhibitions from anyone who expresses it are quick to respond with an enthusiasm that says their investment in an artist is not just about business. It’s about family. By Saturday afternoon, the dealer Andrew Kreps and his staff had completed the inventory of works in the gallery’s 22nd Street basement, and sent most of it out for restoration. “It was like Fukushima down there,” Kreps reported. “I hope the insurance companies will be humane.” Calling up the kind of humor that staves off sobbing, he said, “At least we finally got to clean the basement — we’ve been talking about doing that for years.” Otherwise, humor was in short supply — especially at the full-block Terminal Stores on West 27th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues. Water was still being pumped from its one million-square-foot basement, and the building still had no power. So the half-dozen small galleries there were working in the dark to remove artworks and wreckage, with limited help. After her power was restored, Rosen sent a portable generator over to Wallspace Gallery, which was using it to run dehumidifiers and fans. On Sunday, Kreps gave the gallery’s owners, Janine Foeller and Jane Hait, his generator to power lights. Nearly every artwork in the gallery was wet. Many pieces were on the sidewalk, still unwrapped or drying in the cold air, and Foeller had a nosebleed — either from the stress or from exposure to fetid water. “It would have been great for someone from the city to have come by to check in on the neighborhood,” 303 Gallery’s owner, Lisa Spellman, wrote in an e-mail. “The water left behind was very toxic. It would be great when the city has the manpower to start to clean and disinfect the streets … we are getting sick … sore throats, rashes, infections. …” Yet Spellman, whose 21st Gallery was decimated, is lucky enough to have a space on 22nd Street as a temporary office and restoration area. She hopes to reopen within a month.

http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/06/artifacts-chelseas-new-normal/

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Artifacts | Chelsea's New Normal - NYTimes.com

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KeinholzEdward Keinholz’s “The Ozymandias Parade” at Pace Gallery. Others, with more muscle, will be back in business this week. On Wednesday, the Pace Gallery will open new shows in its two Chelsea spaces on West 25th Street: “The Ozymandias Parade / Concept Tableaux,” a 1985 work by Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz intended as an allegory for the abuse of political power, and “Topography,” an exhibition by Michal Rovner. And on Thursday, Elizabeth Dee is opening “Adrian Piper: Vote/Emote” and “Mark Barrow: RGB” at 545 West 20th Street and James Cohan Gallery, 533 West 26th Street, will open “Trenton Doyle Hancock …And Then It All Came Back to Me.” On Friday, the parade continues at the David Zwirner Gallery, which was badly damaged by Sandy. Its previously scheduled Luc Tuymans and Francis Alys shows, which were ready for installation before the storm, have been postponed until January. Instead, Zwirner will fast-forward Diana Thater’s “CHERNOBYL,” a dismaying yet poignant, and room-swallowing, video installation that was previously slotted for January. (Some of its images of the 1986 nuclear disaster in Ukraine could easily be taken for the gallery blocks of Chelsea last week.) Those are bright spots. Still, it seems likely that the future will bring a new hierarchy to Chelsea, where galleries reside not on bedrock but on landfill that easily floods after just a heavy rain. The dealer Paula Cooper wondered, the other day, if many galleries wouldn’t choose to relocate farther uptown, perhaps in Hell’s Kitchen, where the Sean Kelly gallery moved from Chelsea last month. (The area, which escaped the wrath of Sandy and last week’s power failure, offers larger spaces than, say, the Lower East Side.) For now, galleries — like all New Yorkers — have to start preparing better for the worst. Rebuilding the city’s infrastructure could take decades. Meanwhile, more storms will come, of increasing intensity, and will give us a new understanding of what is “normal.” For art galleries, six-foot-high sandbag fortifications before http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/06/artifacts-chelseas-new-normal/

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Artifacts | Chelsea's New Normal - NYTimes.com

12/5/12 10:56 AM

a hurricane will be normal. Off-site storage, on higher ground, will be normal. Emergency generators will be normal. Conservators will be as integral to contemporary art as they are to the art of past centuries. Perhaps high-tech corporations with customers in the art world could help small galleries stay in business by donating computers and video equipment. Perhaps wealthy collectors could pay for works they’ve bought now, instead of months or a year later, as is often the case. Maybe insurance companies will be flexible. Most of all, maybe everyone who goes to galleries for free and believes art can make a difference to the quality of our lives will help keep spirits up. I know that artists won’t stop making art. Hopefully, we’ll still have lots of ways to see it. “Kienholz: The Ozymandias Parade / Concept Tableaux” will be on view through Dec. 22 at the Pace Gallery, 508 West 25th Street. Diana Thater’s “Chernobyl” will also continue through Dec. 22 at David Zwirner Gallery, 519 West 19th Street. “Adrian Piper: Vote/Emote” and “Mark Barrow: RGB” are both at Elizabeth Dee, 545 West 20th Street, Nov. 8 to Dec. 15. “Trenton Doyle Hancock …And Then It All Came Back to Me” is on view at James Cohan Gallery, 533 West 26th Street, Nov. 8 to Dec. 22.

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Artifacts | Chelsea's New Normal - NYTimes.com

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Johnny Misheff VISITING ARTISTS

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Artifacts | Chelsea's New Normal - NYTimes.com

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Artifacts | Chelsea's New Normal - NYTimes.com

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CONTACT US MEDIA KIT PRIVACY POLICY THE NEW YORK TIMES COMPANY The New York Times Style Magazine

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Chelsea's New Normal  

Chelsea's New Normal