If the number of galleries expanding their quarters is any indication, the art market is undergoing a serious resurgence. Earlier this month, during the Frieze Art Fair in London, there was much buzz about the giant new Mayfair quarters of Hauser & Wirth, which now boasts three London spaces, one in Zurich, and another in New York. This week, the art crowd is at FIAC in Paris, where expansionist dealer Larry Gagosian, on the heels of receiving the Légion d'honneur from the French government, yesterday swung open the doors to his ninth gallery, on Paris’s Rue de Ponthieu. The latest gallery to announce a new space is New York’s 14-year-old Team Gallery, run by the redoubtable, and seemingly indefatigable, dealer José Freire.
Team, which is currently located at 83 Grand Street in Soho, plans to open a second space around the corner, at 47 Wooster, during the second edition of New York’s annual Gallery Week, which runs May 6 to 8, 2011. Team’s additional quarters are spacious, measuring 3,200 square feet (its current gallery is 2,500 square feet) and boasting 20-foot ceilings: perfect for ambitious installations. A standalone building, it served as the upscale food store Gourmet Garage in the 1970s and '80s and then became a high-end jeans store. It has stood empty for two years, and Freire doesn't plan an extensive build-out, preferring to keep it a bit rough in comparison to his Grand Street headquarters. "It will be the butch to this gallery’s femme," Freire jokes.
Freire says he realized he needed to expand when he began aggressively adding artists to his roster — the latest to come on board are the established Spanish artist Santiago Sierra, whose show is up now, and young Italian Massimo Grimaldi, whose first show with the gallery is coming up in February. There are more names to come, but Freire isn’t yet prepared to announce them. What he does say is that it became difficult to take on artists and not be able to promise them a show for a long while. "Adding artists to the roster became impossible with one space," he says. "In terms of rotating our artists through a schedule, we needed another space. It doesn’t work to see an artist and say, 'I can give you a show in three years.'"
Although some in his roster, like Ryan McGinley, have achieved high profiles in recent years, Freire continues to see his gallery as a place for incubating young talent. "We are still an emerging-artists' gallery," Freire says. "We are judged by whatever is the latest thing we’ve shown."
The additional space will allow him to do more shows, and to have them on view for longer. At the moment he does nine shows per year, keeping them on view for five weeks each. With the new space, he will do 12 shows a year, six per venue, and keep them up for two months. On occasion, he will use both spaces to do a major two-venue show by one artist.
"We are in a foreign country in SoHo," he jokes, referring to his distance from the gallery Mecca that is the Chelsea art district. "We are a destination gallery, so people can now see two shows instead of just one."
Freire made the move from Chelsea to SoHo in 2006, and he says that waiting out his 10-year lease on a cramped space on 26th Street "felt like a prison sentence." He admits he "never liked working in Chelsea" because of the area's mall-like atmosphere. "The average viewer would spend less than a minute looking at a show," he recalls. "I don’t have that kind of program. I have a slow program, so I thought I would move down to Soho."
The first person he contacted when he first thought of SoHo was Jeffrey Deitch. "I asked him if he planned to stay in the area, and he said, 'Yes,' and told me to come down here and have a look." The few negotiations he had started in Chelsea were going nowhere — at one point he, Andrew Kreps, and Hudson from Feature gallery had a bid in on a large building on 21st Street, but it ended up going to Larry Gagosian. He went down to SoHo and liked what he saw, eventually opening directly across from Deitch.
In fact, Deitch didn’t stick around for long. In June he decamped for Los Angeles to begin his new job as director of LA MOCA. But Freire has no regrets about his decision to move downtown.
While he admits that he thought about opening this second New York space in Chelsea, he couldn't find anything suitable on the ground floor. In fact, he looked in just about every viable gallery neighborhood in the city, with one of his employees scouting Chelsea, the West Village, TriBeCa, the Bowery, and the Lower East Side for months. The verdict? "There were good things to be had in TriBeCa, but getting people to cross Canal would be impossible," he says. "Everything on the Lower East Side was too small. The Bowery feels too glam, a bit like the Meatpacking District. It may not be appropriate for any more new galleries." SoHo, yet again, felt right. Plus, Freire says with unrestrained glee, he has a tree right out front of his new space, a rare luxury in Manhattan.
As for the market, things have been looking up since the Art Basel fair in Switzerland in June, according to Freire, and Frieze continued the momentum. In an indication that seasoned collectors who took a break during the recession are getting back into the game, he says that in London he sold to "very good clients" who hadn't bought from his gallery in two years. "Things are feeling good and solid," he says. "I'm ready to make a move."