Metro Pictures, the Fabled New York Gallery That Launched the Pictures Generation, Will Close After More Than 40 Years

Veteran gallerists Helene Winer and Janelle Reiring say they made their decision as the industry moves into "a very different art world.”

Metro Pictures gallery in Chelsea. Image courtesy Metro Pictures.

The storied New York art gallery Metro Pictures will close permanently at the end of 2021.

Representatives for the gallery, a fixture of the city’s art scene for more than 40 years, announced the surprise decision on Sunday night, citing “a demanding year” and “the anticipated arrival of a very different art world.”

The gallery’s founders, Janelle Reiring and Helene Winer, said it was “the right moment” to close the book.

“We have decided to announce this difficult decision far in advance of our closing in order to give the artists we represent and our staff time to pursue other options and to allow us to participate in their transitions,” Reiring and Winer, both in their 70s, said in a statement.

Cindy Sherman's work on view at the Punta della Dogana in Venice. Photo by Eric VANDEVILLE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.

Cindy Sherman’s work on view at the Punta della Dogana in Venice. Photo by Eric Vandeville/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.

The gallery employs around 13 staff and its impressive roster includes 27 artists, from celebrated photographer Cindy Sherman, to Latifa Echakhch, the Moroccan artist who will represent Switzerland at the 2022 Venice Biennale.

Reiring and Winer founded the gallery in SoHo in 1980. Both came to the business from prestigious art backgrounds: Winer had been director of Artists Space, and Reiring came from Leo Castelli Gallery.

Throughout its early years, Metro Pictures was the foremost platform for the Pictures generation of artists, with shows dedicated to Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo, and Louise Lawler.

Younger artists, including Olaf Breuning, Paulina Olowska, and Trevor Paglen, continued to expand the gallery’s reputation as an authoritative space for photo-based art.

“I joined Metro Pictures a decade ago and have always felt a sense of immense gratefulness that I could work alongside some of the artists who I had spent much of my life admiring and being inspired by,” Paglen tells Artnet News.

“It’s been a huge blessing to be able to be a part of Helene and Janelle’s vision and to have had the opportunity to be part of a gallery that has made such a tremendous contribution to art and culture.”

Breuning, whose most recent show, “Rain,” closed at the gallery in February, tells Artnet News he first came to New York for a residency and decided to stay in the city in part because of Metro Pictures.

“It could not have been better for me as an emerging artist than to join this great gallery with all the fabulous artists they represented,” Breuning says. “Up to this day, I am always proud to tell someone I am represented by Metro Pictures.”

“Of course, I am sad about the closing, but good things have an end too, which is always hard to digest, but the memories will always be happy,” he adds.

Winer told the New York Times that the decision was not due to declining sales, but in anticipation of the challenges of a post-pandemic art world.

“I don’t think at my present age that I want to be reinventing the wheel,” she said.

This is the second major New York gallery to shutter during the pandemic after the taste-making Gavin Brown’s Enterprise closed last year. Brown eventually joined Barbara Gladstone Gallery.

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