From Sodden Art to Skyrocketing Insurance, Galleries Tally Hurricane's Cost

From Sodden Art to Skyrocketing Insurance, Galleries Tally Hurricane's Cost
Flooding at Marianne Boesky Gallery
(Photo by Katya Valevich)

NEW YORK — As the storm tides begin to recede, art dealers are among the many business owners left assessing the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. From the Lower East Side to upstate New York, dozens of art institutions that we talked to — including R 20th Century in SoHo, Rachel Uffner Gallery on the Lower East Side, the New Museum on the Bowery, Postmasters Gallery in Chelsea, and Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, to name a few — are without electricity. Others, like Eyebeam and Zach Feuer in Chelsea, sustained serious flooding and have yet to determine the full extent of the damage.

One of the worst hit by the storm — at least among the select group of dealers currently talking to the press — is Feuer. At the peak of the flood, waters reached about five feet inside the gallery, he said. Almost all of the work in his current exhibition, “Kate Levant: Closure of Jaw,” has been destroyed. “So far that’s the biggest disappointment,” he told ARTINFO by phone. “The show just opened and I’d be very surprised if any of that work is restorable. They are works on paper and they got wet, beat up, and the tables they were stored in banged into walls.”

Tomorrow, Feuer and his staff will return to the gallery, located at 548 West 22nd Street, to break open the warped-shut door to the back room where much of his inventory is stored. “A lot of our storage racks are built higher than five feet, so I’m hoping they didn’t get washed away,” he said. Still, part of the wall between Feuer’s gallery and its neighbor, CRG Gallery, was torn apart during the storm. “I’m worried because if the water can wash away walls, it can also probably wash away storage racks,” he said. “But we’ll see tomorrow.”

Some other Chelsea dealers fared better. A representative from Paul Kasmin on 27th Street told ARTINFO that the gallery flooded a bit, but that all art had been taken out of harm’s way well beforehand. Leila Heller Gallery, located at the corner of 11th Avenue and 25th Street, miraculously survived the storm relatively unscathed. “We have no electricity, but thank god, there was no flooding in the gallery,” Heller said. Though the basement of the building flooded, gallery staff had moved all delicate art to the back of the gallery on the second floor, which remained dry. She said the maintenance crew slept in the building and called her every two hours.

Down in SoHo, some dealers are preparing for upcoming exhibitions in the dark. Zesty Meyers, of R 20th Century on Franklin Street, says his staff is gathering at the gallery’s warehouse in Brooklyn tomorrow to continue preparing for its exhibitions of Los Angeles-based designer David Wiseman, slated to open on November 13, and a group show opening on the 17th. “If we could get our now-iconic, first-ever Verner Panton exhibition installed during the days after September 11th, which helped bring so much joy and escapism for the people from the smell and everything else happening, I do not see why we can’t pull off the shows we have in the next two weeks,” Meyers told ARTINFO via e-mail.

Once dealers have dealt with the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, they’ll be left with another unwanted side effect: increased insurance premiums. (Over Twitter, dealer Lisa Schroeder noted that though her gallery has insurance for $500,000, many other galleries do not insure art, though most have liability and short-term travel insurance.) “If you constantly have to declare flooding, that’s going to increase your insurance,” said Heller. Feuer seconded this sentiment, “I’m sure premiums are going to go through the roof.”

Stay tuned tomorrow for further updates on the storm's effects on New York's art industry.