Hallwalls, the Buffalo Art Space Started by Cindy Sherman and Robert Longo, Turns 40

Robert Longo, Untitled (Cindy from MTC Series). (1981/2014). Photo: Hallwalls
Robert Longo in 1975. Photo: Hallwalls

Robert Longo in 1975.
Photo: Hallwalls

Back in 1975 when Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo, and their fellow artist pals Charles Clough, Diane Bertolo, Nancy Dwyer, Larry Lundy and Michael Zwack were in college at Buffalo State, they began hanging artwork in the hallways between their studios, transforming the empty space into an aptly named gallery dubbed Hallwalls, which eventually evolved into a larger space that would host visiting artists like Chris Burden (see Chris Burden Has Died at 69) and Vito Acconci.

Now, 40 years later, the space still exists, and it’s come a long way from its humble hallway beginning. Hallwalls is now housed in a former church building, and has evolved into one of Western New York’s most prominent alternative contemporary art venues, while the careers of the founders have blossomed alongside the upstart exhibition space. It’s basically the fantasy every group of art school friends dreams about (see 10 Art Couples You Never Knew Dated).

The Hallwalls staff from 1979-1980: Diane Bartolo, Roger Denson, Kathy High, Donna Wyszomierski, Laurie Neaman, Scott Rucker, Debra Lary, and William Currie.  Photo: Hallwalls

The Hallwalls staff from 1979-1980: Diane Bartolo, Roger Denson, Kathy High, Donna Wyszomierski, Laurie Neaman, Scott Rucker, Debra Lary, and William Currie.
Photo: Hallwalls

“[They] immediately went about gathering a larger group of fellow artists around them, making and showing their own and others’ work,” executive director Edmund Cardoni told artnet News via email, “inviting equally young or slightly senior artists they admired from other cities to show, or send, or visit with their work to talk about it, or to stay longer to create new work here in Buffalo.”

Robert Longo, Untitled (Cindy from MTC Series). (1981/2014). Photo: Hallwalls

Robert Longo, Untitled (Cindy from MTC Series). (1981/2014).
Photo: Hallwalls

To celebrate the big birthday, Hallwalls is holding a benefit auction and party on June 11, featuring 40 works donated by artists who have shown at the contemporary art space over the years, including Lynda Benglis, Betty Tompkins, Walter Robinson, Laylah Ali, Jim Dine, and of course, the founders themselves.

“This selection of 40 works, donated by everyone from the core founders….to recent exhibiting artists not even born yet when Hallwalls got its start, to all the artists who showed here in the decades in between, usually early in their careers, gives a taste of the eclectic mix of contemporary visual arts practice that has been our hallmark,” said Cardoni.

Outside Hallwalls second space on "Dada Day."  Photo: Hallwalls

Outside Hallwalls second space on “Dada Day.”
Photo: Hallwalls

Works on offer are estimated to sell for between $150 and $80,000, with the top lot, a photograph from Sherman’s clown series, estimated between $60,000–$80,000. If you can’t make the trek to Buffalo but still want to support the space, auctioneers will be taking bids by phone.

In 1996, for Hallwalls’ 20th anniversary, the space published Consider the Alternatives: 20 Years of Contemporary Art at Hallwalls, a book of essays and interviews that provide an extensive history of the space and its founders.


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