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Jim Osman: The Walnut Series at Lesley Heller Gallery, New York: installation view, Peter Gynd (courtesy the artist and Lesley Heller Gallery)

Small and mid-size galleries in New York are being hit hard by the COVID-19 crises, with many facing an uncertain future. Now, the pandemic has claimed its first victim, Lesley Heller Gallery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

In an email today, April 21, Heller announced the permanent closure of her eponymous gallery after 10 years of activity at 54 Orchard Street.

“I am extremely proud of the exhibitions the gallery has put on throughout its many iterations, and I am honored to have worked with so many incredible artists and dedicated collectors,” she wrote.

Heller, who could not be reached for this article, opened her first gallery, the Workspace, in 1994 in SoHo. After 10 years of activity, she moved to the Upper East Side and reopened as Lesley Heller Gallery. The gallery was one of the first in the neighborhood. In 2010, she launched the Lesley Heller Workspace, which presented solo exhibitions by represented artists in the front gallery, and guest-curated group exhibitions in the back gallery. The program ran for seven years, exhibiting works by influential artists like Lynda Benglis, Sol LeWitt, Elisabeth Condon, Deborah Brown, and others.

Lesley Heller Gallery’s announcement will likely be followed by other closures of galleries around the city.

In March, the New Dealers Alliance (NADA), circulated a petition that implores the city and local government to provide relief to small and mid-size galleries.

“If no action is taken, these businesses will not survive and many artists and art workers will be left without a system of support,” the petition warned.

In an updated petition later in March, NADA called for a rent freeze to help galleries survive this period, but these pleas have not been answered.

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

3 replies on “NYC’s Lesley Heller Gallery Will Close Permanently”

  1. Very sorry to hear this news. Lesley has an astute eye and a generous spirit. I hope we’ll hear from her again soon.

  2. This is really sad news. I saw many strong shows, and new work by exciting artists, at Lesley Heller Gallery over the years. Such a loss. Wishing the LH Gallery community all the best in this awful time.

  3. It is truly sad to see the Lesley Heller Gallery close. As we will likely see others follow, we have to implore the city, foundations, landlords, etc., not to let these vital small businesses close. They are not casualties of normal business evolution. This is a crisis and a time to decide what we want to preserve as our culture. With small galleries, theaters, and colleges facing closing in these unprecedented times, we need to make conscious decisions about what to protect and preserve. Otherwise well be left with whatever is standing after the pandemic is over.

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