1717 Troutman, the warehouse where artist-run galleries raised the bar for curatorial rigor in Ridgewood/Bushwick, and made the building a neighborhood destination, has asked its galleries to close. Firstcomer Regina Rex closed its space on Sunday. The galleries, which are all artist-run, are now looking for new spaces, and if possible, another shared building.
“I watched it happen in Chicago in a neighborhood called Pilsen,” said Harbor Gallery‘s Alta Buden. “I just didn’t think it would happen so soon. We’ve only been here one year.” Harbor, a recent addition to the building has a month-to-month lease. Back in December, their landlord Troutman Business Zone LLC told the gallery they needed to vacate the building, on the grounds that their openings attracted too many people.
“To be fair, the openings do attract a lot of people. Some people know the door codes, some go on the roof deck. But even after we started to keep things under control, and took turns watching the door ourselves, we were still told to leave.”
We have reached out to Troutman Business Zone LLC and are still awaiting a comment.
Along with the rest of the spaces (with the exception of Regina Rex), Harbor plans to stay on through Bushwick Open Studios, held the weekend of May 30-June 1st. (Their last show in the space closes on June 15th). Underdonk Gallery will be holding a benefit during Bushwick Open Studios in order to help fund its move. Regina Rex plans to show at alternate locations during the summer, including Bunker 259 in Greenpoint and Knockdown Center in Queens.
Thanks in large part to Regina Rex, the building’s galleries have made 1717 Troutman a must-see on Bushwick tours. When it opened in 2010, Stephan Traux described Regina Rex as the “cold curatorial knife” to Bushwick’s “lovey dovey house party.” This is still basically true of the building; nearby, in Underdonk’s current show Palimpsest, for example, Lauren Clay riffs on the work of Frank Stella, and Inna Babaeva riffs on the nature of painting itself with paint flying out of a bucket and smudged on plexi panes. As a group, the galleries typically offer a more theoretically-oriented program than you’ll find elsewhere.
Whether galleries will stay in the Ridgewood neighborhood remains unclear. Even between eight artists, the collectively-run gallery Ortega y Gasset Projects is having trouble finding affordable space. Co-founder Leeza Meksin has investigated commercial property near the Morgan stop, for example; word has it, plans for the Bushwick Mall have just been approved there.
“One of the agents I was working with told me that if I’d put in the offer two weeks ago, we would have gotten the space. The owner had been desperate to get an offer. But then real estate developers got word that this big mall project is [officially] on, and prices just went crazy.”
Meksin had gotten word of a DUMBO space which is hoping to attract artists back with reduced rates. “This is the first I’d heard of it, and I think it’s ironic because artists made the neighborhood what it is today. I don’t know all the details yet. To them, a good rate might be still something that’s unaffordable to us.”
Since Ortega y Gasset is made up of eight artists from different cities, they’re also considering moving the space to another city altogether. The current show “Landlessness” (title borrowed from Moby Dick) presents quiet, ephemeral works by five artists which reflect, as the press release puts it, on “unanchored states of a lack of ground, an aerial view, and a collapsed sense of time and space.”
Parallel Art Space was the last to receive the message from their landlord, likely because they’re the only gallery with a long-term lease. They’d signed a three-year commercial lease back in 2012, when Regina Rex was the only gallery in the building and Bushwick’s landlords were still eager to attract artist tenants. The landlord had even built out a gallery space for Parallel (at Parallel’s expense, of course). But on Tuesday, they were officially asked to stop operating as a gallery.
While the landlord technically has no legal grounds to change the terms of the lease at this point, Parallel has also begun looking. “To be the last of the Mohicans…is kind of sad,” said co-founder Rob de Oude. Their next show Off Line on Mark, opening May 24th, happens to be kind of an ode to the community. It’s a group show based on a Facebook photo of artists at one of their openings, whose work will all be in the show.
“People would like to stay in Bushwick—some are looking around the Montrose stop, near 319 Scholes and Storefront Ten Eyck,” said de Oude. But even in that area, some spaces have gone up to $3.85/square foot. For artists, that’s prohibitively expensive.
“I think people are already getting the dollar signs in their head,” said de Oude. “So that’s a problem.” There’s also Maspeth, which is hard to get to, but cheaper. People are also considering moving further down the L line, off the Halsey stop.
I wondered whether this was a repeat of history, as Parallel’s Rob de Oude and Enrico Gomez used to operate Camel Art Space in Williamsburg. Actually, their migration to Bushwick had to do with the “deterioration of real estate.” There were leaks in the gallery, and a case of cat hoarding upstairs had gotten so bad that kittens were falling from the third floor. “So integrity was an issue,” said Gomez. “When you’re asking peers, people whom you trust and respect to lend us your artwork, there are cats falling from the ceiling! It’s untenable.”
“The leaking was also a big problem,” said de Oude. “That integrity, you need to have a sound footing in order to do certain things, and if that footing is not there, it becomes insecure. That became insecure back then, and now, with us operating here, it still becomes insecure. There are still cats falling down here, in that sense.”