‘Mega-Galleries’ Spell the End for Smaller Area Showrooms

Posted on: June 30th, 2017 at 5:04 am by

Small galleries on the Lower East Side are closing left and right.

For the last decade, headlines ad nauseum described an influx of smalltime galleries defecting from Chelsea and landing in the neighborhood. Critical mass has apparently been reached, where only the big box can now survive. Galleries with deep pockets apparently make it impossible for the more independent players to survive.

The New York Times reported on the trend, and noted that On Stellar Rays, which expanded onto the Bowery proper last year, is poised to shutter. Twenty-five-year-old CRG Gallery, most recently on Chrystie Street, also closed a couple months ago.

Midsize galleries have long struggled to compete in a field increasingly dominated by mega-galleries with multiple locations, like Gagosian, David Zwirner and Hauser & Wirth. But lately the trend toward an intensely commercial and competitive art market has resulted in a critical mass of galleries folding, moving or merging.

What is widening the divide? High-priced real estate in gallery neighborhoods like Chelsea, and the proliferation of expensive art fairs, where collectors now do most of their browsing and buying. Participating in an art fair these days can cost a gallery hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And rather than visiting individual galleries — and perhaps discovering new talent — collectors are focusing on market-tested trophy works carried by major dealers; are sometimes buying from Instagram or other online images without seeing the work in person; and are less willing to gamble on the emerging artists represented by small and midsize galleries.

Blame also rests with Instagram and photo sharing:

[Co-founder of CRG] Mr. McMillan said part of the problem is traffic; whereas Saturdays used to be the day when visitors poured into galleries, now crowds on that and other days have noticeably thinned, a decline he attributes to art buying through social media as well as the fatigue of “an art fair every month.”

“People are not coming to galleries,” he said. “It’s been a simultaneous perfect storm of the convenience and plethora of the art fairs and the Instagram mentality of seeing something and immediately having a yes or no response to something — it’s not the world we signed up for.”

Recent Stories

‘Ariel’s Bistro’ at Clinton and Houston Calls it Quits

Ariel’s Latin Bistro, which arrived on the Lower East Side nightlife scene in June 2014, is down for the count. The bar-restaurant closed last week with little notice to the neighborhood. And while the decorative lights still gleam within, leasing signs in the windows cancel it out. That Ariel’s shuttered isn’t out of the blue. […]

Chinatown Honors Parkland School Massacre Hero Peter Wang

A vigil was held yesterday afternoon in Kimlau Square to honor Brooklyn-born Peter Wang, who was tragically killed in the Parkland high school shooting last week. The gathering was organized by the United Fujian Association. Wang was a cadet in the U.S. Army’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. When […]

14-Story Hotel Development Reactivated at Vacant Eldridge Street Lot

It’s been two years since we learned about the new hotel planned for 79 Eldridge Street, the long-vacant lot situated south of Grand. Despite the submission of building plans to the city back in March 2016, inactivity has been the trend here. No longer. As of last week, the green-hued perimeter plywood is now constructed […]

Siggy’s Good Food is Closing Down this Weekend

Siggy’s Good Food will end its restaurant business this weekend after thirteen years. The Elizabeth Street outpost – on the block since 2012 – closes for good on Saturday. “Goodbye, NYC, you gave us wings and now it’s time to fly,” reads the official announcement. Siggy’s eponymous owner is apparently off to Charlotte with its […]

7-Story Matzo Factory Condos Top Out on Rivington Street

The Streit’s name hasn’t held court on the Lower East Side since demolition of 148-154 Rivington Street commenced in the summer of 2016. Now, in its place, teaser signage for the upper crust newcomer which just topped out last week. The token signal of apex – an American flag – was planted atop the seven-story […]