NYC’s Chelsea Art Galleries Struggling for Survival
After years of prices rising and the nouveau riche buying, the West Chelsea’s Gallery District art market is now in a recession, or even potential depression.
Specifically, the recession is devaluing post-war and contemporary art, a sector that had previously been booming with inflated prices and high-visibility artists like Damien Hirst. As Mei Moses Index’s 2008 Year End Art Market Insights reports: “last year, the art market only declined by about 4.5 percent, but the post-war and contemporary sectors dropped by 11 percent.” Prominent Chelsea galleries, like Cohan and Leslie, Oliver Kamm 5BE, Mehr and Clementine, have all closed in the last few months. Remaining galleries are struggling to adapt to the changing market by increasing exhibit lengths, limiting advertising costs or cutting employees.
The recession will influence the art market’s future, but experts are still in debate as to how. Some hope the art world will be more focused on art and less on money. Others see this time as an opportunity for artists and art organizations to create their own paths. Art economist David Kusin has a different view: “In two years, if you walk down the streets in Chelsea, two-thirds of the businesses that are open now will no longer exist.”
Regardless, there is one group who is happy about this change: art buyers. Happy bargain hunters, who previously could not afford the inflated prices, are now purchasing the works at deep discounts.