On Saturday afternoon, the strip of galleries between the Hudson waterfront and 11th Avenue finally reopened with a block-wide opening reception. Those galleries have been closed since Hurricane Sandy hit in October. With months of repairs behind them, the galleries along 27th Street seem happy to sweep away those recent memories. I even ventured to ask Ed Winkleman if he was sick of mentioning Hurricane Sandy.
“We’re happy to talk about Sandy, as long as it’s in the past tense,” the Moving Image fair founder and Winkleman Gallery director told me on Saturday afternoon. That comes just days after the dealer made a heartfelt plea on his blog for collectors to come visit the galleries.
But on Saturday, it certainly seemed like the hurricane was past tense: the galleries (Wallspace, Jeff Bailey, Foxy Production, Winkleman, and Derek Eller) looked brand new, like Sandy had never happened. Perhaps it was too new; Wallspace even smelled of fresh plaster. Still, the mood was lively, and the street teemed with crowds, weaving in and out of the galleries’ open doors. Many were seen carrying carrying styrofoam cups of hot cider, compliments of Winkleman Gallery.
That mood couldn’t contrast more with what we’ve seen over the last few months. Since Hurricane Sandy hit in late October, these galleries have endured a steady stream of setbacks: lack of electricity, flooded galleries, and damaged artwork. Over Thanksgiving weekend, nearly a month after the storm, service crews could be seen pumping out the last bit of water that had stood puddling on the galleries’ floors. In December, with repairs still to be made, many of the galleries attended the Miami art fairs, adding a welcome sense of normalcy and routine to what had been a month of sheer urgency.
It’s still going to take time for things to return to normal. On Saturday, it was evident that many of the galleries were reopening with shows from October, ones that had to be taken down upon Sandy’s arrival. Returning shows include Sascha Braunig’s haunting, op-art inspired paintings at Foxy Production, and Derek Eller’s retrospective of Thomas Barrow, a photographer who came of age in the 1960s, but whose distempered photo collages look distinctly contemporary. We missed those shows when they first went up, so we’re particularly glad they’ve been given an extended life. After an unexpected pause on 27th Street, it’s good to know there’s reasons to come back out and give these galleries another look.