Last March, dealers Joel Mesler and Zach Feuer partnered up to create the bipartite Lower East Side gallery operation Feuer/Mesler and Mesler/Feuer: one space at 30 Orchard Street, where Mesler previously ran a gallery called Untitled, and one space at 319 Grand Street. But rising rent costs on a rapidly changing lower Orchard Street have brought a happy change: Feuer/Mesler and Mesler/Feuer will be consolidating operations and running things out of 319 Grand Street. The 30 Orchard Street gallery, which was previously home to Mesler’s Untitled gallery, will but shuttered, but the programming will continue in full at a soon-to-be-expanded Grand Street space.
“We decided to tell the landlord to fuck off and we walked,” Mesler said of the Orchard Street location, which he moved into in 2009. “They wanted to add some things into the lease that we were not comfortable with and did not want to give in to. It’s another real-estate game. They had the option to get someone who could give them more for the space.”
The two plan to adopt another space within 319 Grand in a few months, once it becomes available, and they also have added three artists to the roster: Loie Hollowell, Jane Corrigan, and Brad Troemel.
“It’s a really great time for the gallery,” said Mesler, who, full disclosure, used to write a column for these pages. “We have the possibility in the next few months to make a thoughtful expansion. The Lower East Side has changed so much, and we actually prefer that location.”
Indeed, change is in the air in the bottom blocks of the Lower East Side that abut Chinatown. A stroll down Orchard Street circa 2016 will feature more chic bistros and highfalutin java merchants than galleries, and Canal Street now boasts outposts of trendy eateries such as Pies ‘n’ Thighs, Dimes, and Mission Chinese Food. Next year, the group behind the Ace Hotel chain will open a swanky six-story luxury inn at 60 Canal. Thus, over the past few years, dealers Rachel Uffner, Laurel Gitlen, and Lisa Cooley have left Orchard Street, and pioneering space 47 Canal left its eponymous address, around the corner from Orchard. Last month, Joe Sheftel joined the exodus from the block, announcing that he was closing his space.
“When I first moved down there, Orchard still had Joe and Lisa, but now it’s literally just restaurants and these other secondary gallery spaces that came in kind of late,” Mesler said.
With the consolidation, Mesler and Feuer continue to bolster what’s become a murderer’s row of Lower East Side galleries that line Grand Street. The 291 Grand building houses Gavin Brown’s enterprise, 47 Canal, Nathalie Karg Gallery, and James Cohan Gallery all in the same building—a downtown version of 980 Madison (Gagosian, Venus, Nahmad Contemporary, Higher Pictures), or some new, East Side incarnation of 420 West Broadway (Castelli, Mary Boone, Sonnabend). Dealers Marc Straus and Peter Freeman have Grand Street spaces, and a dozen or so other galleries, like Invisible-Exports, Miguel Abreu, and David Lewis, are just steps away.
“I love Grand Street because it feels like the art world of old,” Mesler said. “I feel the excitement again. The artists actually want to engage with it. I don’t feel like as much of a sideman, standing on the sidewalk being like, ‘Come to Orchard Street!’ The space on 319 feels kind of secret, like what you do matters—not like you’re right out in front of everything.”
How long this feeling will last is another question, as realtors have taken note of the white-hot Grand Street scene and spun it into marketing. The firm Rice & Associates is presenting spaces at 282, 284, and 286 as the “Grand Street Galleries,” having gutting the fish markets that were once there and spiffied them up into white cubes. “Join 20 neighboring galleries on the LES corner with the densest concentration of well-known galleries, all within three blocks,” the pitch on the website reads, next to a map pointing out all the spaces in the adjoining blocks. Bowery Boogie notes that Straus is already using one of the Rice & Associates storefronts as a workspace.
Whatever happens, Mesler/Feuer is set to be around for a while. With just one space instead of two and the Feuer/Mesler expanded line up, the gallery’s schedule is booked through February 2017. The next show will be of work by Corrigan, opening in January.