Changes in the urban infrastructure have forced some galleries to close their doors and open virtual portals.
It’s hard to say how many times I have scribbled my email address in a gallery’s little black book during visits over the years. Over this period of time I have also created several email accounts, so my only indication of how long I have been on a gallery’s mailing list is the email address that they have on file. Everyday my inbox receives messages from galleries in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California, Chicago, New York, London, nearly all of Western Europe and Asia. The content of many of these emails is announcements for an exhibition or publicity the gallery has received for an exhibition.
About a month ago, I received an email from Frank Pictures Gallery that caught my attention. I even flagged it so that it wouldn’t get buried by the daily barrage of messages. For the past ten years the gallery has called Bergamot Station its home. As a past student of Crossroads School located across the street, there were always rumors that a transportation (Expo) line was going to bisect Bergamot and threaten the treasure trove of galleries inside. A city built around the automobile, Los Angeles is driven by cars and not public transportation. Bergamot Station is an art lover’s paradise because you can visit one gallery after the next without ever having to fight for a parking spot.
The battle between the art world and the city of Santa Monica raged on for years and just when I thought the galleries had won, construction began in and around 26th and Olympic and the rumored transportation line was becoming a reality. The email from Frank Pictures Gallery read as follows: “After a decade at Bergamot we are announcing with sadness and gratitude… FRANK PICTURES GALLERY IS CLOSING ITS DOORS AND OPENING IT’S PORTALS. FPG online will remain open VIRTUALLY forever.” This was the first email I had ever received from a gallery that announced a virtual opening. As Editor-in-Chief of a digital art publication I applauded their effort to claim a new domain and create a digital outlet to experience a collection of artworks. It all seemed bittersweet though, because no matter what their reason for closing it signaled the end of an era and possible trend for galleries in the future.
A few weeks later, Track 16 announced “We have entered the modern age. Thanks to the Expo line taking our Santa Monica gallery by Eminent Domain, we now have a warehouse/showroom space in Culver City- and we’re open for business, both ONLINE and by appointment.” Galleries move all the time. Sometimes it’s motivated by budget, discrepancies between tenants and their landlords, or they simply need more space. But something about galleries being forced out of their safe haven speaks volumes, because in the fight between the arts and the city, the arts lost.
Installation was founded on the belief that art should transcend city lines, area codes and time zones to make art a source of conversation, not intimidation. Furthermore our digital pages preserve artworks and give mediums such as projection, performance, and installation a permanent home. While galleries like Frank Pictures and Track 16 have lost their physical space, Installation will insure that their collections are never forgotten.