Appraisal: Art Galleries Assess Post-Storm Damage


NEW YORK—After observing exhibits at Pace, Sikkema Jenkins, Luhring Augustine and several other galleries throughout Chelsea last Saturday, viewing images of flood water running through the streets of the art corridor a couple of days later was unreal.

Hurricane Sandy swept through the region, debilitating Lower Manhattan, Staten Island, Long Island, Queens and parts of Brooklyn and New Jersey with flooding, downed trees and power outages that continue. The Hudson River swelled and flowed into nearby Chelsea in the West 20s between 10th and 11th avenues. Area art galleries in harm’s way were particularly vulnerable given the fragile nature of their inventories and one-of-a-kind value of many art works. Water lines showed the flooding reached four feet in street-level galleries. Some basement level galleries were completely consumed.

The art world spent the past week figuring out how to recover from the storm. Many news outlets chronicled set-backs suffered by Chelsea art institutions.

The New York Times covered flood damage in the Chelsea art district on Wednesday. Robert Smith of the Times also filed a report on the aftermath. And Bloomberg noted damage costs at galleries.

Reporting for Art Forum, Linda Yablonsky filed a thorough on-the-ground-report from Chelsea, visiting gallery after gallery as staff assessed damage and used water pumps to drain their properties. Her dispatch, captures images of damaged art and compromised exhibits, such as the Henry Moore sculpture show that was being installed at the Gagosian Gallery on West 21st Street and was found wading in a pool of water.

Gallerist NY spoke to artists and gallery owners after the storm about the state of their studios and gallery spaces. New York magazine’s Jerry Saltz also recounted his tour of “Chelsea’s ruined art galleries.”

Hyperallergic’s coverage of the art world after the storm has been particularly informative, focusing on assistance and resources for artists in need and professional help available for galleries and dealers trying to assess loss and explore options for restoring damaged art work.

Printed Matter, a Chelsea nonprofit shop dedicated to publications by artists, took in six feet of water in its storage basement, damaging books, limited-edition prints and many other works with historic value. In an open letter, Printed Matter detailed the state of their damaged inventory and thanked the community for helping them dig out during the week.

Many in the art community took to Twitter after the hurricane to comment on the storm’s impact, and share updates (@KellyCrowWSJ, @hyperallergic, images (@hankwthomas) and resources (@creativecapital).

Finally, MoMA is hosting a public consortium on preserving flood-damaged art tomorrow, Sunday, Nov. 4.

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