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Is It Time to Say Goodbye to the Chelsea Art Gallery?

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[Say goodbye to the days of gallery-hopping in Chelsea. Photo: littleny / Shutterstock.com]

Thanks to the many, many (many!) developments that are in various stages of completion along the West Side of Manhattan, one of the things most frequently associated with Chelsea—its art scene—may soon be a thing of the past. Crain's reports that many of the galleries that once attracted art-world elites and savvy tourists to the neighborhood are moving out, often to neighborhoods downtown like the Lower East Side or Chinatown.

Thanks to the popularity of The High Line and the forthcoming megaproject at Hudson Yards, real-estate prices in the neighborhood have been steadily increasing over the years. Stuart Siegel of CBRE, a real-estate organization that specializes in Chelsea, told Crain's that spaces are now going for as much as $120–$125 per square foot—but in 2008, those numbers were more like $60–$95 per square foot. While some of the neighborhood's larger galleries—Gagosian, David Zwirner—own their buildings, smaller spaces often find those rents untenable. The owners of Foxy Productions, for example, were part of a group who opened spaces on 27th Street about 10 years ago; now, the rising rents have driven them out. "Chelsea feels more blue-chip and less an area where you come to discover new artists," said Michael Gillespie, the owner of that gallery.

And smaller galleries aren't the only ones being affected:

Even Jeff Koons, the world's most expensive living artist at auction, isn't immune. He will leave his long-time studio in the next two years, according to Roy Bernstein, chairman of the board at Valeray Real Estate Co. that owns the property on the corner of West 29th Street and 11th Avenue. The company plans to construct a 30-story affordable rental building. "We had offered them an opportunity to build something to their specifications on the same block, but that didn't work out," Mr. Bernstein said.

Yikes.

For what it's worth, gallery owners are optimistic about moves to other neighborhoods. James Cohan Gallery will soon move from its space on 26th Street to a new, 2,900-square-foot gallery on Grand Street; of the move, Cohan said, "No one wants to become a dinosaur. We thought there is fresh energy on the Lower East Side." Other people seem to agree: the neighborhood now has more than 120 galleries, a number that has nearly doubled since 2010. (Watch out, Bushwick—you're next.)
· Art galleries are leaving Chelsea [Crain's]