27th Street Galleries Must Jump Hurdles Before Reopening

by Corinna Kirsch on November 7, 2012 Newswire

27th street in Chelsea. I received this cell phone photo from Isaac Lyles at Derek Eller Gallery with the text message: Brutal but we're fighting through it.

27th Street is a mess. That swath of galleries—Derek Eller Gallery, Winkleman, Foxy Production, Jeff Bailey Gallery, and Wallspace—remains shuttered, each dealing with a lack of electricity, heat, and phone service.

“It will likely be weeks before we can repair the damage and reopen,” Ed Winkleman, owner of Winkleman and founder of the Moving Image Fair, told us over email. He, like others, told us that the reports that are out there don’t mete out justice to the galleries’ physical—and potentially economic—devastation. Today, he updated his blog for the first time since the hurricane, but with a notice: “Normal blogging will not likely resume any time soon, I’m afraid. Just too much work left to get things back up and running.”

For the most part, it’s hard to get in touch with these galleries: landlines ring endlessly, internet is spotty, and calls get dropped all the time. Progress is being made though; this week, the reception was a bit better and the internet started to return.

“Ideally, we’d like to open at the end of November, but it’s all very hypothetical,” Derek Eller Gallery Director Isaac Lyles told me over the phone on Tuesday. The gallery plans to reopen with a show of work by Thomas Barrow, whose exhibition was in the gallery during the flood. That work’s fine, but the majority of the gallery’s inventory, has been damaged beyond repair. Currently, the vast majority of work sits in the gallery space, waiting to dry out, but, according to Lyles, “it’s still a little humid.” He said it could take up to a year for the insurance claims to come through.

Given the extent of the damage, some galleries may be forced to consider moving. The  27th Street dealers have particularly good reasons to desire a new location: Waterfront Realty, their management company has failed to help with even basic relief, like clearing out the remaining water, and helping to remove garbage and debris from the properties.

As of Tuesday, there were still a few inches of water left in the gallery buildings, after an initial ground swell of 5 ½ feet. Waterfront Realty failed to return our calls, or those of the gallerists.

“We might not be in the same space, “ Lyles told us seriously. “Everything’s on the table.”

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