Art in General, the Beloved Alternative Art Space That Gave Many Stars Their First Shows, Will Close Due to the Pandemic

Its history will be held at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.

Installation view,
Installation view, "I came here on my own." September 22 –December 15, 2012, at Art in General, New York.

It’s the end of the line for Art in General.

Long one of New York’s most beloved, enterprising, and dynamic art spaces, its leadership announced it will shutter completely by October 31, 2020 in advance of its 40th anniversary. A letter posted on its website cites the financial constraints caused by the coronavirus pandemic as the reason. It is the first major NYC art organization to fold due to the coronavirus.

A letter about the closure from board of directors president Leslie Ruff and executive director Irene Mei Zhi Shum notes that despite taking “critical measures to adjust to the new normal,” a path toward the future was impossible given the economic circumstances.

From its longtime location on Walker Street, Art in General decamped to DUMBO in 2016. In August 2020, in the thick of the pandemic, the organization moved to Jersey City, where it has been sharing a space with Mana Contemporary under the leadership of Irene Mei Zhi Shum.

The non-profit alternative art space has had many iterations since it was founded in 1981 by artists Teresa Liszka and Martin Weinstein in a building owned by the General Hardware Corporation. In 1988, curator Holly Block was named Executive Director, shepherding the institution into the spotlight of Manhattan’s alternative art scene, with shows that featured then emerging artists like Gabriel Orozco, Glenn Ligon, Amy Sillman, Tania Buguera, and Marina Abramović. That same year, Block instituted a policy of paying artists stipends for their work.

In their goodbye notice, Art in General’s bosses noted that the space’s legacy will be preserved by the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, where the archives will be held.

The organization also announced the final edition of its New Commission Program, titled Project 270: Signs of Change, and an online show, Dropped By and Found You: #DroppedByAiGProject 270 is a nation-wide attempt to increase voter turn out in the run up to the election by partnering with graphic and street artists to cover cities across the country in Get Out the Vote information. Participating artists include Ron English, Swoon, Lady Pink, Edgar Heap of Birds, and Nick Cave and Bob Faust.


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