“A Gallery Atypical to Its End
RANDY KENNEDY. August 3, 2012
How long can an art gallery that has no regular hours, no staff, no windows, no air-conditioning and — perhaps more relevant to the question at hand — pays no rent remain open in the heart of Chelsea, one block from behemoths like the Pace Gallery and Gagosian?
The answer in today’s art world, with today’s High Line-spiked Chelsea real estate prices, should be that such a place does not have the slightest possibility of existing. But the correct answer, as it turns out, is 4 years 7 months 15 days, give or take a hiatus or two, and counting on everything going well until the end of September.
That is when Honey Space, one of the city’s strangest art establishments, will officially be no more, ending what Tom Beale, a sculptor who opened the space in February 2008 in a ramshackle warehouse along the West Side Highway, liked to describe as an artist-run, unattended no-profit gallery (nonprofit being far too formal), the kind that otherwise hasn’t existed in Manhattan for decades.
Mr. Beale moved into the building from Bushwick, Brooklyn, in 2007 — swimming against the tide of most young artists looking for affordable space — when the four-story warehouse was opened as an experimental artists’ cooperative called Emergency Arts. That plan fell apart. But Mr. Beale stayed on, earning a free ground-floor studio space by serving as the building’s carpenter, salvage man, plumber and all-around concierge after Alf Naman, a developer who controls the property, hatched a plan to make the building temporarily into a rough-hewed event space with inexpensive rental studios for artists.
“When I first came in, they told me, ‘Just go tape off your space,’ ” Mr. Beale, now 34, recalled. “And so I took this ridiculous amount of space for myself, right on the street in Chelsea, which I didn’t deserve at all. And I knew that somebody was going to figure it out pretty soon and take it back.”
But then, in the summer of 2008, a funny thing happened: The economy fell off the cliff, and plans for demolishing the warehouse to develop the site commercially went onto a slow track. The building, on West 21st Street, quickly filled up with artists — some well known, like Iona Rozeal Brown and the street artist Swoon — and became a kind of creaky, dusty small town, with a town square in the form of a second-floor kitchen and dining hall that Mr. Beale fitted out with scrap lumber he scavenged from the building and the streets.
With so much room on the ground floor, Mr. Beale said, he decided he would regret it for the rest of his life if he didn’t try to turn at least part of it into a gallery space for young artists he liked.”
Via: The NY Times
Photo: Tom Beale works on a wood sculpture in his studio in Honey Space. Ruth Fremson/The New York Times