New York’s Galleries Are Preparing to Reopen to an Uncertain Art Market This Week. Will Anyone Show Up?

Appointments, masks, and hand sanitizer will be the new norms.

Gary Simmons,
Gary Simmons, "Screaming into the Ether," installation view, Metro Pictures, New York, 2020. Courtesy of Metro Pictures.

What a difference a fortnight makes.

Two weeks ago, galleries across the city were playing it safe with reopening plans. Technically, dealers were allowed to open for pickups and by appointment only, but few advertised that they were doing so. Many remained closed altogether.

Fast forward to July 2, a week-and-a-half into phase two of the city’s reopening, which allows for retail businesses to operate at half capacity, and your email inbox is likely full of dealers telling you they’re back in business. 

Since July 1, galleries including David Zwirner, Lehmann Maupin, Kasmin, Metro Pictures, Alexander Gray Associates, and Sperone Westwater, among others, have announced plans to reopen starting the week of July 6. (July 6 also marks the beginning of phase three of the city’s reopening, but this does not affect galleries.)

Lari Pittman, "Found Buried," installation view, Lehmann Maupin, New York, 2020. Courtesy of Lehmann Maupin. Photo: Matthew Herrmann.

Lari Pittman, “Found Buried,” installation view, Lehmann Maupin, New York, 2020. Courtesy of Lehmann Maupin. Photo: Matthew Herrmann.

You can expect a similar experience across all locations: you’ll have to sign in (for contact-tracing purposes), wear a mask, and maintain distance from other guests and staff. Masks will be on hand should you somehow make the trip without one, and there will be hand sanitizer dispensers as far as the eye can see. Some spaces will require appointments; others won’t, but may recommend them.

Galerie St. Etienne, for its part, will take a gradual approach to reopening. The uptown space (where an exhibition of Austrian and German posters from the Merrill C. Berman collection is on view) will welcome appointments on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. A spokesperson also notes that “employees will work staggered shifts, so that no more than three are on premises at one time.”

Galerie Lelong will similarly go the Tuesday through Thursday route when it reopens its show of paintings by New York artist Kate Shepherd. Appointments are required, but the gallery’s four on-site staff members won’t turn down impromptu visitors if they don’t have bookings.

“Should visitors arrive at our front door without one, they should phone us and we will try our best to accommodate their visit,” a spokesperson says. 

Kate Shepherd, "Surveillance," installation view, Galerie Lelong, New York, 2020. Courtesy of Galerie Lelong.

Kate Shepherd, “Surveillance,” installation view, Galerie Lelong, New York, 2020. Courtesy of Galerie Lelong.

Yet a question still looms: will people really show up? 

“New York’s not completely devoid of art collectors, as it was a couple of weeks ago,” says art advisor Wendy Cromwell. “I think some collectors will go to galleries now that they can. They’ll show up in solidarity—I’m certainly planning on doing that.”

Since the onset of phase two, Cromwell has made a couple pre-scheduled visits to galleries, using Facetime to communicate with her clients while on site. “It felt really good to be back,” she says.

But not everyone is ready to jump back in.

“I have some clients who are not interested in going back into these spaces right now,” Cromwell says. “They have underlying health conditions or are simply busy with their summers. But that’s the way it always is—I don’t typically take people to galleries in July and August.”

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