Recently, my friend Greg Cook took issue with my take on the recent gallery shake-up. Apparently he thinks I'm too optimistic about the whole thing, although I know he and I agree on the central issues at stake here. Cook says:
"Matt Nash is right when he writes that the Boston galleries shakeup is part of the usual churn of any art scene, but what he keeps missing is that these aren’t just any galleries that are closing (or significantly cutting back). The loss of galleries like Allston Skirt, Bernie Toale, Space Other, Rhys, Judy Ann Goldman and (the fledgling) Julie Chae is a major blow to the scene. (Even if some of them say they are only going on hiatus.)"
When it comes to the quality of the galleries that are closing, and the significant work they have exhibited and their influence on the arts in Boston, I couldn't agree more. Losing galleries like Allston-Skirt, Pepper Gallery, Rhys Gallery and all the others is a blow, not only in terms of visibility and credibility, but also to artists and their opportunities for exposure and growth.
It's the effect on artists that I feel most strongly about. Having spent years bemoaning the loss of alternative spaces in Boston, and it's immediate and direct impact on the lives of artists, no one is more aware than I am about how the reduction in numbers of our commercial gallery ranks affects artists and their futures.
Yet, as I've said before, we've been through this before and come out fine. In fact, it was the near-evacuation of Newbury Street in the '90s that led to the creation of the arts district on Harrison, without which there would be no Gallery Kayafas, Samson Projects, Julie Chae Gallery, Gallery XIV and many other spaces that did not exist prior to the opening of that neighborhood to the arts. Equally important, the rise of Harrison allowed Bernard Toale Gallery, Allston-Skirt Gallery, Rhys Gallery and numerous others to grow and expand within a supportive atmosphere and bona fide arts scene. Just as important, the rise of the Harrison arts district forced a revitalization of Newbury Street, where Howard Yezerski, Judi Rotenberg Gallery, Pepper Gallery, Kidder-Smith, Chase Gallery and numerous others have re-invigorated the area with a fresh approach to art.
I whole-heartedly agree with Greg that the quality of the galleries who are closing is a blow. However, I also trust the art scene in Boston to grow as a result, and for new galleries to step up and make sure that this downturn is only temporary. I hate to see Randi Hopkins, Beth Kantrowitz, Colin Rhys, Audrey Pepper and many others step off the main stage, just as I hated seeing Drew Katz, Rob Clifford and Jim Smith step down a few years ago. Given the choice between anger and depression over a downturn I can do nothing to stop, or offering optimism, hope and encouragement for a future I hope to see, I choose the latter.