Over the past few months, a steady stream of Chelsea galleries have hitched their wagons and migrated south to Tribeca, either expanding their presence in the neighborhood or, in some cases, being uprooted entirely from downtown. It’s just the latest wave in a shift that’s been going on for nearly a decade.
Earlier this week, Tim Blum, of Los Angeles-based gallery Blum & Poe, announced that he had removed his former partner Jeff Poe’s name from the gallery, closed his Upper East Side location, and moved to White Street. The future Blum space is currently inhabited by Ozutar Projects, which is moving next door to a space three times larger. Anat Ibgi, a Los Angeles dealer who owns three brick-and-mortar spaces to the west, is moving to an area of Broadway, between Walker and White streets, that also includes Andrew Krebs Gallery, Nino Mir, and Arne Glimcher’s adjacent Project Pace space at 125 Newbury. And PPOW Next month, longtime dealer Marian Goodman will move into the same building after nearly 50 years in midtown Manhattan, as will Alexander Gray Associates.
Broker and art collector Jonathan Travis, who has long been at the center of efforts to rebrand Tribeca as New York’s most attractive art district, believes people misunderstand why art galleries are moving downtown. “A lot of people were under the wrong impression that art galleries were being pushed out of Chelsea because of rents,” Travis said. art News. But with the price per square foot being roughly similar in Tribeca and Chelsea — between $100 and $120 — the move, he says, is about “feel more than balance sheets.”
The first gallery to move to Tribeca was Postmasters, which moved to a 6,500-square-foot floor space in 2013, after more than a decade in Chelsea. Founded in 1984 and known for its championing of challenging contemporary art, the gallery was emblematic of the pioneering spirit of early Tribeca dealers. In the late 1970s and 1980s, Tribeca was a center of New York style, known for its jazz bars, nightclubs, and working-class pubs. Around that time, celebrities such as performance artist Laurie Anderson, painter James Rosenquist, film director Martin Scorsese, and actress Meryl Streep moved in, while Andy Warhol held court with Jean-Michel Basquiat at The Odeon. In this sense, art dealers in the mid-2000s felt like they were coming home. The new dealers said they feel similarly, with the added bonus that the neighborhood, which now has nearly 70 art galleries, has proven to be an arts destination.
“The energy and activity generated by our presence in Midtown and Tribeca has really been a positive force for our space,” said Alana Ricca, managing director of the art-focused Schoelkopf Gallery of America. art News. “It’s a kind of energy we haven’t seen uptown in many years.”
For Schölkopf, who moved to Tribeca earlier this month, local history is as much of a draw as the cast-iron buildings and extensive artistic community. “Not only does it fit our program, but we’re already starting to draw inspiration from Tribeca’s years of being a historic arts district, and we’re celebrating the neighborhood really going back to its roots,” Ricca said.
Another attraction, according to Travis, is the old-school charm of Tribeca, New York. While Chelsea has seen significant development in recent years, replacing old warehouses with glass and steel towers, Tribeca’s streets are lined with cast-iron buildings and low-rise buildings. Art Deco colors painted wrought iron facades. Many of Travis’ clients come from merchants whose Chelsea landlords have refused to renew their lease so they can redevelop the building, he said.
As always in real estate, location is everything. Tribeca is served by multiple trains and narrow streets meaning one can visit dozens of galleries in an hour or two. Meanwhile, Chelsea is only served by the subway on 23rd Street, and walking from one block of galleries to another can severely limit galleries travel.
When Bortolami moved to Tribeca in 2017, he was part of the second wave heading downtown. The gallery moved because the building that houses their Chelsea location was for sale. However, according to Ivan Reiser, a director at Bortolami, the benefits soon became clear. “I think what attracted the gallery here was the wonderful architectural space,” Reiser said. art News. “When the gallery first moved, having storage space below ground level was a huge advantage.”
One of the main — and less dramatic — reasons many art galleries move, according to Travis, is insurance. After Superstorm Sandy left large parts of New York City devastated in 2012, insurance companies stopped providing coverage for lower-level storage areas in showrooms in flood zones. art News reported at the time. Chelsea is noticeably in a flood zone — with some galleries reporting ceiling-to-ceiling flooding at the time — while the parts of Tribeca where the galleries settled are not.
Bortolami has deepened her commitment to Tribeca over the years, expanding her existing space, acquiring a condominium above the gallery in 2020, and then a third floor last year. The Broadway Gallery has also expanded its space on the sought-after stretch of Broadway between Walker and Franklin, twice since moving to Tribeca in September of 2020. “The original move downtown was a little risky,” co-owner Joe Cole said. art News. “But obviously it’s gone really well. Because, you know, we got to see all these other galleries open here and the community that we’ve built.”
But, as Tribeca continues to grow, many small galleries in the area have closed this year. In August, JTT closed after 11 years; In September, Queer Thoughts closed after 8 years; Earlier this month, Denny’s closed its doors after years of TK. Foxy Production’s Chinatown Gallery also closed in September after 20 years in business.
Josh Bae, an art consultant and founder of the industry newsletter Baer Faxt, argued on his podcast Thursday that gallery closures reflect what happens when there is a tightening in the art market. Speaking about the Darwinian nature of the industry, he said: “The big companies always win, the average companies are eliminated, and the small companies are temporary.”
Reiser, of Bortolami, suggested that the sheer density of galleries in Tribeca means there is sometimes too much for collectors to see. “Now, it’s very possible that when collectors come to Tribeca, they might miss us,” he said.
Dealer Rob Demin, who opened his eponymous gallery this year after parting ways with Denny Demin Gallery co-owner Elizabeth Denny, said: art News The movements of living things, in the end, are cyclical. “I feel like there’s a 10-year cycle,” he said. “And there is a possibility that within ten years from that date, we will see a return to Chelsea. But only because medium-sized galleries will need more space, and storefronts will become very expensive. It will be that kind of battle. This is chasing back and forth better rents based on space.” .
Of course, in the battle between Chelsea and Tribeca, there is a third option: avoid the crowds altogether. Candice Maddy, who has had a gallery on the Bowery for more than a decade, said she’s not interested in moving, either to Tribeca or anywhere else.
“Neighborhoods come and go, and I just made a conscious decision not to worry about real estate,” she said. art News. “It can take a lot of energy: thinking about it and talking about it, which is energy that I can put into my program.”
Maddie will open a second space on the Lower East Side, One Freeman Alley, next month with a solo show of work by New York-based artist Gail Thacker.
“I like that we’re a little bit off the fringe. It’s very important to maintain your independence, to maintain your voice,” she said. “When you walk around Chelsea, or that piece of Tribeca, you feel like you’re not in a neighborhood, you’re in the art world. “Moreover, New Yorkers know that it’s only a short walk from the Bowery to Tribeca.”
#midsized #galleries #closing #major #opening #Tribeca #reaching #final #state #arts #destination