Flooding in the streets of Chelsea (photo by Lindsay Howard)

As everyone knows by now — and as we tried to document extensively here — Hurricane Sandy wreaked a fair amount of havoc on the art world. Streets and galleries flooded in Chelsea, art spaces downtown and in Queens lost power, artists living or working in Red Hook, Gowanus, and other hard-hit areas saw their work destroyed. Much of the city is facing a long, uphill recovery process, and much of the art world is no exception.

To aid in that process, the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA) has launched a relief fund, to help both member and nonmember galleries located in Zone A that have been severely affected by the storm. The organization announced the first round of grants on Friday, benefiting Wallspace, Bortolami Gallery, Derek Eller Gallery, and Printed Matter.

Just some of the water damage done to Printed Matter’s merchandise (image via Printed Matter’s Instagram)

“It was a huge effort,” ADAA Executive Director Linda Blumberg told Hyperallergic when asked about the process of setting up, coordinating, and distributing a grant program so quickly. She went on to explain the week-long turnaround that the organization pulled off:

By Thursday I had toured Chelsea, and some people were down there already, and we recognized that the devastation was pretty intense — that the need was really immediate, because as the damage stayed in the galleries, it made everything worse with mildew and toxicity. So we understood very quickly that immediate action was necessary. Over weekend we contacted our lawyer, had a meeting of the executive committee. It was decided that we would use our own endowment funds to begin this process, and that’s what we did. By Tuesday we were organizing the application form, we got it approved, and our executive committee was 100 percent behind us. We set up a meeting with lawyers and folks from the insurance company, and we handed out the first grants on Friday.

Blumberg declined to say how much ailing galleries and spaces are receiving, but she did say describe the grants as “significant amounts of money to make a difference initially.” She also stressed the generosity of other dealers, who offered money unsolicited after hearing about the creation of the relief fund. The press release announcement mentions a $50,000 contribution from David Zwirner, whose own galleries sustained flood damage as well.

The ADAA is accepting ongoing applications, which Blumberg mentioned have been increasing in volume as word about the fund spreads. Qualifying criteria include “catastrophic damage that prohibits gallery business, drastically impaired cash flow, and demonstrated risk of a business’s permanent closure,” according to the press release. The organization is hoping to get another round of grants out by the end of this week, and they’ll continue on from there.

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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...

4 replies on “Art Dealers Association Offers Relief in the Wake of Sandy”

  1. Hate to say it… but the galleries could have done more to save the artwork. It was not like Sandy came out of nowhere. There were warning signs leading up to that day… and direct warnings days before it happened. Yet it appears that most of the galleries had little to no plan of action for it aside from breaking out the bubble-wrap (which I suspect is the minimum most of them had to do according to their insurance policies). Work could have been transported to a safer location… not to mention that there are containers designed to protect delicate items from flood damage, including artwork. If a small business along the Mississippi River can afford to take those steps to protect inventory… I’m certain that a NY based art gallery can afford it. Don’t get me wrong, I feel bad for all involved… but it just seems to me that more could have been done to reduce the losses — and I want to know why so many galleries failed to take Sandy seriously.

    1. I don’t know—I see your point sort of, but I also think you’re being a little harsh. We (at least I) don’t know how much they did and didn’t prepare, or how much they could have known. It seems to me like people expected a storm with maybe a bit of water seeping in, but no one predicted multiple feet of water in Chelsea. Or did someone?

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