An Affordable New York Gallery Calls It Quits

Installation view of "Irrational Exuberance: A Recession Art Show" at the Invisible Dog (photo by Allison Meier)
Installation view of “Irrational Exuberance: A Recession Art Show” at the Invisible Dog (photo by Allison Meier)

Recession Art, the nearly five-year-old organization devoted to showcasing emerging artists and affordable art, is shutting down its gallery next week. The project will continue to exist online, but Recession’s physical space will close and it will not mount any more exhibitions.

Recession Art began, as its name suggests, during the most recent recession. Sisters Emma and Ani Katz initially conceived of it as a roving operation, mounting exhibitions in different venues, with the first one opening in April 2009. The focus was on showing emerging artists whose work was affordable — under $500, according to a New York Times article from that time — in order to encourage people to continue, as well as to start, collecting art during the recession. The Katzes called it “our own art stimulus plan today.”

Later that year, Recession inaugurated the third floor of the Invisible Dog Art Center with the first in a series of semiannual group shows that took place there. In January 2012, the organization finally moved into a permanent location, on the Lower East Side: a cozy two-room space that served as “part gallery, part performance venue, and part store,” they said. But the new home lasted only a little more than a year; in March 2013, Recession relocated once again, to 47 Bergen Street, right next door to the Invisible Dog.

That home, in turn, lasted less than a year, as Recession Art is now preparing to close its doors. Founder Emma Katz told Hyperallergic over email that the decision was a “personal/financial” one.

“It was always an ambitious mission to get a new group of people to think of themselves as art collectors and get them to spend their money on emerging artists,” Katz explained. “I think it worked great when we did periodic events, but because of our commitment to lower prices, it was hard to make ends meet when we had to pay rent every month.”

Katz said that she doesn’t see this as an ending, per se, or even a reflection of changing economic conditions:

I think there are actually more things popping up now than when we started in 2009. A few months ago we hosted the launch of the CSA&D (Community Supported Art and Design), which has a similar mission. And I’ve been helping Anthony Tino, my assistant at Recession Art, start a new project called Endless, which will support emerging artists in new media. I mean, it’s New York, so I don’t think there’s any change that could happen in the economic climate that could stop young artistic people from starting new things.

And yet, because it’s New York, it’s also incredibly difficult to maintain a space like the one Recession was operating. There may be affordable art here, but there’s not much affordable real estate.

Hopefully the Katzes will have better luck online, where small-scale endeavors devoted to affordable art have generally lived (though not always succeeded). From the sounds of it, however, plans are still tenuous. “We’ll be updating our community about the activities of our alumni and possibly rebooting our online store to continue to sell there,” Emma said. Given their taste and track record, here’s hoping for the latter.

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