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Art in General, Beloved Brooklyn Arts Nonprofit, Announces Closure

In a letter, organization leadership cited the financial pressures of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as the reason for the decision.

Installation view of Letha Wilson’s exhibition at Art in General’s Tribeca space in 2013 (photo by Hrag Vartanian)

Art in General, the Brooklyn nonprofit dedicated to presenting new work by emerging and mid-career artists, has announced its closure after nearly four decades of operation. In a statement, Board President Leslie Ruff and Executive Director Irene Mei Zhi Shum cited the economic pressures of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Although we have taken critical measures to adjust to the new normal, the financial constriction due to COVID-19 has proved formidable, severely affecting our ability to fulfill our mission,” the statement reads.

“In this difficult time for us all, we offer our sincere thanks to you — our alumni artists, guest curators, visitors, former staff and donors — for your passion and dedication, interest and support during the last forty years,” it continues.

Since its establishment in 1981 by artists Martin Weinstein and Teresa Liszka, Art in General has presented the work of more than 2,000 local and international artists, including many who went on to achieve wide recognition in the contemporary art world. Glenn Ligon, Elizabeth Peyton, William Pope.L, and Rirkrit Tiravanija are just a few of the artists who graced the organization’s standout roster. In 2017, Art in General was featured in Hyperallergic’s “Best Of” list for Brooklyn for its solo exhibition of Postcommodity, the artist collective’s first in New York.

Art in General’s first and long-term home was in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, where it remained before relocating to Dumbo in Brooklyn in 2015. In August of this year, the organization had partnered with Mana Contemporary and moved its offices to Jersey City, New Jersey.

Though the nonprofit has permanently closed its doors, its legacy will live on in the form of archival material documenting its exhibitions and programs, now accessible to researchers as well as anyone interested in the organization’s long  history. In their letter, Shum and Ruff say Art in General’s archives and founding documents have been donated to the Smithsonian Archives of American Art. A complete set of its publications will be housed at New York University’s Fales Library, Downtown Collection.

Its remaining inventory of books and printed material was gifted to Art Resources Transfer (A.R.T.), a nonprofit that redistributes art literature to public schools, libraries, and prisons. A.R.T. was founded by artist Alejandro Cesarco, who exhibited at Art in General in 2006 and 2007.

Art in General’s current presentation of “New Commission,” a program launched in 2005 that helps artists create new works by providing production fees, exhibition space, and promotional support, will continue through November 3. Project 270: Signs of Change, titled after the minimum number of electoral votes needed by a candidate to be elected as President, is not a traditional commission; rather, it is a massive effort to raise voter awareness in the lead-up to the election. The nonprofit has partnered with several organizations as well as graphic and street artists from each state to create posters and other materials meant to increase voter turnout.

Art in General’s current online exhibition, Dropped By and Found You: #DroppedByAiG, which consists of digital files from the gallery’s digital archive, will be viewable through December 31.

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