Restoration Hardware to Close Short-Lived New York Gallery

The 27,000-square-foot space was recently sold for $44.4 million.

Restoration Hardware’s RH Contemporary gallery in New York, which opened less than two years ago, will soon close, artnet News has learned from someone close to the gallery.

The gallery, which is located at 427 West 16th Street in the Meatpacking District, is one of the more curious incursions into the contemporary art sphere of recent years—what were the prospects for a company known for distinctive lighting, Belgian linens, Thai silk, and patio furniture in the contemporary art market where dealers do their best to play down associations with retail?

A press representative for the company told artnet News via email that Restoration Hardware is considering a “possible sublease” for the 16th Street space. That was one of “various options” that the company was considering while it carried out a larger plan to launch an L.A store this year that they’re calling “RH Modern,” she said, which will also have a presence in other stores, in each location of which they “plan to integrate RH Contemporary Art.” According to the company’s fiscal 2015 earnings video, the RH Modern locations will feature exhibitions of the artists shown by RH Contemporary.

Restoration Hardware’s lease on the 27,000-square-foot space, which was sold in June to a family trust controlled by Steven and Howard Horowitz for $44.4 million according to The Real Deal, is good through 2029. The interiors, previously occupied by a photography studio, had been recently renovated when RH Contemporary opened in 2013; the white-cube spaces are accented with raw wood ceiling planks.

The gallery’s website, which has the same glossy appearance as the retail shops, gives you the ability to search not only by artist, but also by artworks, which are categorized by medium (painting, works on paper, installation), which seems geared for the viewer looking to shop for kinds of work rather than for those with specific artists in mind. The largest category, by far, is painting and the work leans heavily toward decorative, easy-on-the-eyes abstraction that brings to mind the hoary phrase “goes well with the couch.”

Likely the only artist on their roster you will have heard of is the London-based art and design collective Random International. Their installation Rain Room, which consists of a field of falling water with motion sensors that turn the sprinklers off as people move through it, commanded massive crowds when it was shown at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2013 after breaking attendance records at London’s Barbican Center earlier that year.

By coincidence, RH Contemporary opened just a few months after the launch of Amazon Art, another art-related venture by an established retailer, which aimed to sell artwork by such beloved figures as Norman Rockwell and Claude Monet. The concurrence suggests that the two corporate giants may have learned about big returns in the art world and wanted to get in on the action only to realize later that the art market is not so easily conquerable by those killing it in retail. For its part, Amazon appears to have trimmed back its expectations; it had offered a $4.85 million Rockwell when it launched, but now its priciest offerings are two Victor Vasarely paintings for $350,000.

If you haven’t yet been to the RH Contemporary space, there’s still time. On view at the gallery through September 5 is a group show featuring Andres Galeano, Jorunn Hancke Øgstad & Tyra Tingleff, Random International, and a collective called The Studio Chronicles.

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