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Chelsea’s New Normal

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  • Chelsea’s New Normal

    Chelsea’s New Normal 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.

    Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York
    David Zwirner Gallery will reopen with Diana Thater’s “Chernobyl.”

    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.

    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... full story

  • #2
    Re: Chelsea’s New Normal

    Art Community Comes Together After Chelsea Gallery District Goes Under Water

    By: Stephanie Simon

    The Cheslea gallery district suffered severe flooding during the storm and difficulty cleaning up and pumping water out during the blackout. Now affected galleries are doing what they can to asses their losses and re-open. NY1's Stephanie Simon has more.

    John Post Lee's Chelsea gallery did not specialize in water colors, but looking around his basement storage area and his gallery the impact of the flood is clear .Like so many Chelsea galleries with basement storage or that are located on a ground floor, Lee and his colleagues are doing triage on their wet art.
    Lee, a member of BravinLee Programs, which runs art galleries in the city, has created a staging area for keeping art until it is at a point where it is relatively dry. Then the art is taken up to his second floor gallery space.
    While Lee continues to assess the works individually for insurance purposes, he estimates the damage in Chelsea alone could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
    Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate Levin has toured the area and says there is a lot of work to do to rebuild and re-open the galleries, but she's optimistic.
    "The great thing about living artists is that they have the capacity to make new work," Levin said.
    Despite the extensive damage throughout the gallery district, leaders at BravinLee say there's really been a coming together of the arts community... full story


    • #3
      Re: Chelsea’s New Normal

      Chelsea's Damaged Galleries Push to Reopen Updated November 12, 2012 9:30am

      November 12, 2012 9:24am | By Jessica Campbell, DNAinfo DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

      CHELSEA — The David Zwirner Gallery opened its doors Friday for the first time since Hurricane Sandy — but to get there, patrons will have to walk past the many flooded storefronts that once comprised Chelsea's vibrant art scene.
      Shuttered galleries, ravaged and torn by Sandy, line Chelsea’s blocks between 10th and 11th avenues. The luckier ones, like David Zwirner, are starting to open their doors. Others will be closed for weeks; some might be closed forever.
      At David Zwirner on West 19th Street, the floodwaters rose chest-high and power was knocked out. Staff began working to empty, clean and rebuild one of the three gallery spaces over the past week, even before electricity was restored.
      The opening show — six walls of film featuring Diana Thater's footage of Chernobyl's "zone of alienation" — originally wasn't scheduled until early next year, but it was pushed up to launch the gallery's reopening.
      “What this work is dealing with is the man-made environment versus the natural environment, so it's especially poignant that we have this now,” said Julia Joern, Zwirner’s gallery director.
      Other galleries have also been working tirelessly to repair the damages inflicted by the storm, and the competition for contractors has been tough.
      Scott Briscoe, a gallery associate at Sikkema Jenkins & Co on West 22nd Street, said that his space was inundated with a couple feet of water during the storm, damaging the walls.
      To reopen quickly, the gallery opted to patch and paint over the troublesome spots and save more extensive repairs for later. Neighboring galleries weren’t so fortunate, Briscoe said.
      “I think it's going to be hard for some galleries to come back from this,” Briscoe said. “I think it will kind of change the landscape of Chelsea.”
      Gallery owners eager to preserve the diversity of that landscape have stepped up to help out their colleagues. The Art Dealer’s Association of America (ADAA) started receiving tens of thousands of dollars of unsolicited donations from members immediately after the storm.
      "Really what these pledges signify is that even though some galleries have the resources to recover quickly from an event like this, a lot of them really value their colleagues who are in more vulnerable positions,” said Lily Mitchem, ADAA’s director of communications and programming.
      The fund has collected $250,000, and ADAA has already started doling out grants

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