Source: Bloomberg, By Katya Kazakina
Six galleries in the Chelsea district moved into former loading docks on Manhattan’s West 27th Street in 2006, the remote block was quickly transformed into an art destination. “By virtue of them clustering together, it made for an absolute must stop in Chelsea,” said James Dorment, 37, an emerging-art collector who bought works from many of the galleries.
Not long after John Connelly Presents closed its West 27th Street doors on Aug. 6, Jeff Bailey, whose gallery is tucked away in a building on West 25th Street, saw a chance to grow. He is taking over Connelly’s lease on Aug. 23. “It’s so much more visibility,” Bailey said. “It’s at least a third larger than what I currently have. It’s on the ground floor. And it’s on a really great block.”
Dealer Robert Goff, who is shutting his West 23rd Street gallery at the end of August, put the rental on the market and got two offers the following morning, he said. Asya Geisberg, New York-based curator and writer, plans to open a gallery in the space in September.
Ground-floor rents are down to $55 to $75 a square foot from $70 to $95 in Chelsea, according to Stuart Siegel, executive managing director at Grubb & Ellis Co., a Santa Ana, California-based commercial-real-estate firm. Siegel is working with eight Chelsea galleries seeking to expand or get better premises in the area. “There really isn’t anything available,” he said. “Activity has been quite fierce.”
Since July 1, 2009, about 50 galleries have changed location in New York, according to website OneArtWorld.com. Yet many galleries are still struggling amid slow sales and long payment plans, dealers and advisers said. “The last two years, business has been down,” said Connelly, 42, whose gallery represented popular art collective Assume Vivid Astro Focus. So he grabbed the opportunity to become director of the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation, which is operated out of Andrea Rosen Gallery, where Connelly worked from 1994 to 2002. “Running your own business is tough,” he said. “I am definitely looking forward to having more stability.”
Goff, who has been operating a gallery for seven years, will become a director of Haunch of Venison, owned by Francois Pinault’s Christie’s International, the parent company of Christie’s auction house. “I was ready for a move,” said Goff, 40. “I really enjoy working with artists, collectors and museums and making books. Running the gallery is not necessarily what I wanted to be doing.”
Haunch of Venison, currently in Midtown, is shopping for a ground floor in Chelsea. The gallery plans to open in spring 2011 and have architect Annabelle Selldorf design the space.
Weaker sales of low-priced art are likely to lead to more gallery closings, according to Wendy Cromwell, New York-based art adviser. “When you are just breaking even or maybe losing money, you start thinking about what your priorities are,” said Cromwell. “Certain galleries will say to themselves: ‘This is crazy. I can’t keep doing it.’”
Judging by West 27th Street, though, exiting players don’t leave walls empty for long. “I will continue to spend a considerable amount of time on West 27th,” said collector Dorment. “Even though you lost a couple of galleries, it’s still very much a destination.”
(Katya Kazakina is a reporter for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.) To contact the reporter of this story: Katya Kazakina in New York at email@example.com.