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.