Monday Update: Report from James Kalm
on what he learned on Tuesday
(Scroll down for Kalm's report in the dark red type)
Let me rehrase that: There was no coverage. There was nothing of the flood damage to the art galleries in
Fortunately some of the publications that serve the art community, mostly online, have done good reporting. Equally important, Tweets and Facebook posts took us in almost real time into the belly of the beast. Hyperallergic, the blogazine edited by Hrag Vartanian, did an outstanding job in this regard. Kudos as well to Art Fag City for its aggregation and reportage.In this post I have aggregated the best of what I have read, adding some reporting of my own. None of these images is my own. I have credited the photographers and sources and provided links to those sources.
I wrote this on November 2, a few hours before power began to come on in
Monday update: A Brief Report from the Red Hook/Gowanus District of Brooklyn
Red pigment stains the pier at the end of Van Brunt Street
All photos with red captions: James Kalm, aka Loren Munk
Thursday evening I received an invitation from Joanne to contribute a brief report of how
Monday morning, Oct. 29
As I scan the usual news sites and blogs I stumbled on a photo of Van Brunt, exactly where I'd been the night before. It showed a couple of feet of water in the street from the initial tidal surge. Monday afternoon, Kate and I, curious cats that we are, make a walking tour of Red Hook. There's a strange, almost celebratory mood. Despite whipping winds and a heavy spritz we see groups of hipsters clicking their cell phone cameras and couples out on the streets looking for adventure. We check Dustin Yellin's studio compound and things look battened down. The Bait and Tackle Bar's front door is open and people are partying. Walking to the end of Greg O'Connell's pier, things are damp but the water level has gone down. Gusty winds blowing tree branches are more treacherous than the rain. Saying things don't look too bad I heard, "Just wait till tonight, about 8:00 pm, that's when we'll see the real shit ".
Bait and Tackle Bar in Red Hook
That night, as the eye of Sandy comes ashore in central New Jersey, I'm tempted to grab my camera and run down to the Hook, but howling winds and hunks of plywood and tree branches barreling down the street deter me. We hunker down for a nervous night. Liberal shots of tequila help.
Sorting through a water-soaked portfolio in Red Hook
We've hosted a friend from Chelsea who'd lost power (they finally restored the juice late Friday) and invited a group of Kate's coworkers without electricity to come by and charge their phones, computers and use the facilities. Back in the Hook Thursday, Florence Neal's Kentler International Drawing Space was the location for a FEMA informational meeting.
FEMA meeting at Kentler International Drawing Space in Red Hook
I just returned from another bike ride to the Hook. Occasional islands of street are Illuminated by the harsh glare of police light towers. There's a strange surreal effect, not unlike walking onto a movie set. Power is coming back block by block, supplemented with portable generators. There's the noticeable reek of petroleum on several streets. The Red Hook Houses are still without power; they had several feet of tidal flood throughout most of the complex. Local organizers have set up a volunteer center where people can sign up to work at Coffey and Van Brunt Street, and a distribution center receiving donations has been established in the Church of the Visitation off Coffey Park at 98 Richards Street. They're requesting canned food, cleaning supplies and blankets in preparation for chill of Thursday’s impending Nor'easter. The whine of pumps is constant, stacks of molding debris are everywhere, but there's hope. Like the Christmas lights that stay on all year long at the Bait and Tackle bar, the people of Red Hook will endure, a bit tattered and chipped, but still colorfully brilliant.
Links to Brooklyn reports:
. Sarah Schmerler on
. Sara Roffino's on the damage in Red Hook for Artinfo.com
. Gallerist NY visits Dustin Yellin
And one more from artist Christopher Saunders, below, via Faceboook
A longer list of
Of course, with flooding comes water damage to artwork (as well as mold, another issue we can recall from the aftermath of Katrina). No word yet on the mold; hopefully crews have come in quickly enough to pump out the water and remove water-damaged drywall.
In the Vulture pages of the current issue of New York Magazine, Jerry Saltz offers an emotional account of his tour of the area which opens this way: "I live downtown, in the part of Manhattan without power. Like many, my nights have been long, dark, cold, and unnervingly quiet. With no Internet access, cell phone, or news I was antsy, and felt the urge to wander. On day two, wondering how the galleries in Chelsea had weathered the storm, I seized the opportunity to leave my apartment and head west. And when I got there, my art-heart sank." Read more
Margaret Thatcher, whose gallery is shown in in the picture below, reportedly lost 40 drawings by the same artist for an upcoming show.
Without electricity, some dealers were unable to raise the heavy metal grates that cover their windows and entrance. Those who gained access initially used generators to pump water out of their inundated spaces. (Even on the Lower East Side, where the galleries to the east of Bowery were not affected by the high water, lack of electricity prevented many artists and dealers from entering their spaces immediately after the storm.)
While virtually all the galleries above street level are dry, access to the spaces may be limited because of lobby flooding or because water and electricity, and thus elevator access and heat, are not available in the building. Elevator wells may also be flooded. This is true for the artists studios as well as the mini storage facilities where many artists and dealers keep work. Here’s Denise Bibro, whose eponymous gallery is on
Tom Chen reporting in a short video for Art Info offers a peek at the cleanup on Chelsea
As for the galleries, there’s the economic impact to the physical space and, separately, to the art. Here it’s clearer to see the impact to artists. .
. First, will the damage be covered?
“Most of us have fine art policies, but most of us don’t have flood insurance. That’s a separate purchase,” says Zoubok Where does that leave the dealers with a flooded basement full of art? Or even
floor-level racks in which the water has risen one or two feet? That depends on their coverage.
And even in those instances, it’s not clear, as Brian Boucher, reporting for Art in America, online makes clear. He quotes quotes Derek Eller, whose eponymous gallery is in the block between 11th and 12th Street and whose basement, full of stored art, took on water: "'Who knows what will happen,' Eller mused, 'with works that were paid for but not picked up. They're not covered by our insurance any more. I don't know if they'll be covered by the buyers' insurance.'"
(Side note: While some insurance carriers insist on a high deductible for "hurricane damage"--i.e. $10,000 or more--Sandy was downgraded to a "post-tropical cyclone" just before landfall so those deductions should not apply. Read more.)
Here’s an artist, who asked to remain anonymous for the sake of his gallery, in a terse email to me: “Two feet of water in the gallery. Most of the paintings got wet. Mine did. I am hoping for the best, as I can restretch if there is no mildew and if they dry evenly, but paintings on panel are goners.”
Putting a finer point on it, dealer Asya Geisberg, talking to Roberta Smith in Smith's article in the Saturday York Times, said, “I worry about the longevity of Chelsea for smaller galleries. We don’t have the staff or resources to deal with this.” Geisberg is optimistic for her own gallery, though. She posted this on Facebook on Sunday: "Still a long way to go, but we fared better than many. AGG is resilient and will be back on its feet very soon. I hope everyone in
.I didn't dare call Margaret Thatcher, whose flooded gallery you saw earlier in the post; I knew she would be involved in a heavy-duty cleanup. So I was heartened to read her Facebook post: "Margaret Thatcher Projects was heavily impacted by the hurricane, beyond anything that could be imagined or prepared for. . . For all of us impacted, I know it will take some time to recover. We are committed to repairing the gallery and reopening. It seemed the only response possible."
I wonder about the dealers who have been at it for decades. Having moved, perhaps multiple times, around SoHo, Tribeca or the East Village before finally settling in Chelsea, are they up for a major reno or move? I suspect the duration of their leases will factor into their decisions, as well as how quickly and how well their landlords respond to the devastation. But after the aggregate trauma of a decade of disaster--9/11, the economic downturn in 2008 and a lingering slow economy, and now this--one has to ask how much more the long-time dealers will take. And what happens to the artists if these galleries close?
While the damage is greatest here, the effects of the storm mean that galleries—and thus business—in a far greater area are affected. “I have lost a number of large painting and framed prints due to the flooding and am still without power on day 4," reports Matt Garson, owner of M% Garson Fine Art in
I asked Zoubok if he thought the flood-damaged galleries would continue with their plans to show in
More to the point of your own ambitions, the gallery you’ve had your eye on may have closed its doors, or may be quietly struggling and it would not be in your best interest to become involved. Time will out here.
Closed galleries mean fewer opportunities for all the artists looking for representation. Visit the galleries when they’re up and running, Follow them on line when you can’t get to the exhibitions there. Go to the openings. Be supportive, but hold back on your self promotion for a while. Never that thrilled about receiving unsolicited packages, galleries will surely not be in the mood for these packages at a time when they may be involved with insurance paperwork and emergency federal loans. That’s true for email, too. And promotional postcards.
Says Zoubok, “It’s too soon.”
From Loren Munk via Facebook message: "I think it's important to get the word out that artists are resilient and despite the tragedy we'll struggle through this . . . we Brooklyn artists are tough."
From Ayn S. Choi via Facebook: “Ran into a gallery owner this morning who said his gallery got 4 feet of water… much damage, but will have his opening next Friday as planned.
. . . . . . . . . .
Articles About Artists and Galleries Impacted by the Storm
Art Fag City: Today Over Twitter
Art Fag City: Photos from the Aftermath in Chelsea
Hyperallergic: Two Days After
From Stephanie Diamond via Newsgrist
Fema on Facebook
AFC offers Tips from AXA Art
If you have more leads for information or help, please post them in the Comments section below.