Will the Waterfront Building on 27th street continue to be a district for the emerging arts? Real estate prices are rising everywhere in the city, and with the respected Winkleman Gallery moving out of the building after its lease expired this March, we wondered whether this was the beginning of another neighborhood change.
Winkleman neighbor Wallspace didn’t seem to think so. “Galleries have been moving in and out of this space for years,” Wallspace Assistant Director Nichole Caruso told me. And of course she’s right, though former tenants Clementine and John Connelly Presents left because they went out of business. Schroeder and Romero no longer have a public space. Others, the names of which neither of us seemed to remember, left for different neighborhoods.
That was the rationale Winkleman offered over email for leaving the building, though his newsletter also noted that negotiations with the landlord for a lease extension proved fruitless. “27th street has been a fantastic context for us (the neighboring galleries are great, although I’m not at all sure whether they’ll resign when their leases are up or not),” co-owner Edward Winkleman told us over email. “But when the lease came up, we decided it’s time to attempt something we’ve been thinking about for a while in terms of a new context.”
That new context seems to be defined by art fairs and biennials, a world where storefronts barely seem necessary. But, when I mentioned the possibility of doing away with a storefront altogether, Winkleman told me his program was too installation-heavy to consider that. “The overhead issue is a puzzler, though,” he said. “I think there remains a status symbol to having a storefront that you can pooh pooh, but not exactly convince anyone it’s not important. Unless you’re Marian Goodman, perhaps.”
Jeff Bailey, owner of Jeff Bailey Gallery, is located in the Waterfront Building as well, with a lease set to expire in August. As of yet, has no plans to move. “I don’t know what rent increases [Waterfront New York Realty Corp.] will be asking,” he said. “We’re in a different situation here on 27th, outside the center Chelsea, but there’s more apartment buildings and restaurants opening. They are a good landlord, and we’ve had a good relationship with them, so fingers crossed.”
Bailey though, seems to be amongst the few we spoke to whose lease will be up within the year. Foxy Production, Wallspace, and Derek Eller all have two years left on their lease, so the problem of finding new real estate didn’t seem urgent. “The boring answer is that we nearly have two years on the lease, so we’re not looking at new spaces,” Foxy Production co-owner Michael Gillespie told me. “But if the lease was up it would be a conversation. How much do we want to pay given the new climate of event culture?”