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Brooklyn’s Black & White Gallery and Project Space Closes After 16 Years

Founded in Williamsburg by Tatyana Okshteyn in 2002, the gallery shifted from a commercial model to an increased emphasis on nonprofit projects.

Installation view of Isidro Blasco's <em>Rolling Houses</em>, the final exhibition at Black & White Gallery/Project Space (all photos courtesy Black & White Gallery/Project Space)
Installation view of Isidro Blasco’s Rolling Houses, the final exhibition at Black & White Gallery and Project Space (all photos courtesy Black & White Gallery and Project Space)

A longtime fixture of the Brooklyn art scene shuttered on Sunday. Black & White Gallery and Project Space was launched by Tatyana Okshteyn in Williamsburg in 2002. She expanded to Chelsea in 2006, operating out of a space in the Tunnel building between Eleventh Avenue and the Hudson river through 2010; for the last few years, the space’s activities had been concentrated at Bushwick’s 56 Bogart Street building. The gallery closed following the run of its fourth exhibition with photo and installation artist Isidro Blasco on June 24.

Installation view of JoAnne Carson's Dreamcatchers (2017)
Installation view of JoAnne Carson’s Dreamcatchers (2017) at Black & White Gallery and Project Space’s Bushwick location

“My vision was to create an exhibition space for younger artists skillfully using traditional and emerging mediums to comment on the world they live in. I planned to operate the gallery as long it would be financially viable for the exhibiting artists and the gallery itself,” Okshteyn told Hyperallergic over email. “I just did not want to operate the gallery in a survival mode any longer as it’s quite demoralizing to function in an adverse art economy where the smaller, more experimental galleries take the risks and make the sacrifices to culturally subsidize larger galleries and art institutions without any financial support in return.”

Dewitt Godfrey, "Picker Sculpture" site-specific installation in Black & White Gallery/Project Space's Williamsburg space (2004)
Dewitt Godfrey, “Picker Sculpture” site-specific installation in Black & White Gallery and Project Space’s Williamsburg space (2004)

Over the course of its 16 years, Black & White hosted dozens of exhibitions, a mix of group and solo shows. The latter included exhibitions and projects by Shantell MartinTamara Kostianovsky, Blaine de St. CroixNoémie LafranceLiset Castillo, Jane Benson, KK Kozik, Rachel Stern, and Everett Kane.

“I’m proud of the consistency of the overall program,” Okshteyn said. “The space was about providing support to promising artists at the very beginning of their careers. The majority of them did not disappoint and validated my belief in them by developing successful artistic careers. I tried to be very consistent with respect to the gallery/project space programing and committed financial resources to shows that reflected both missions.”

Installation view of Shantell Martin's Continuous Line (2012) at Black & White Gallery/Project Space's Williamsburg location
Installation view of Shantell Martin’s Continuous Line (2012) at Black & White Gallery and Project Space’s Williamsburg location

In the end, though, the model of using a hybrid of commercial and non-commercial programs to support a wide range of artistic practices and projects wasn’t immune to the challenges facing all but the top tier of art galleries. Asked what made it particularly hard for smaller galleries to survive, Okshteyn offered the following, sobering assessment of the challenges facing the industry:

1. Financially supporting a permanent brick-and-mortar gallery space.
2. Finding new collectors — traditional methods do not work anymore.
3. The prevailing trend to position art as an asset class (art by younger and lesser-known artists is difficult to sell as an asset).
4. The purchase cycle has substantially slowed down (no more FOMO from collectors).
5. New influencers have not emerged yet to create a ripple effect on “copy cat” collectors.

The gallery’s extensive archive of exhibitions remains available on its website.

Installation view of Julian Montague's The Stray Shopping Cart Identification System (2006) at Black & White Gallery/Project Space's Chelsea location
Installation view of Julian Montague’s The Stray Shopping Cart Identification System (2006) at Black & White Gallery and Project Space’s Chelsea location
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