Broadway 1602, the experimentally minded New York gallery that opened in the Garment District in 2005 and moved to two uptown spaces in 2016, has filed for bankruptcy, bringing to a close a 12-year run that included pivotal shows of work by Marjorie Strider, Alina Szapocznikow, Evelyne Axwell, and many other under-recognized artists. The filing was first reported by Bloomberg’s Katya Kazakina.
The gallery, which focused on under-represented international artists of the 1960s and ‘70s but also organized left-field shows of more recent art by figures like Paul P. and Amy Granat, is the latest casualty in a steady stream of small- and mid-sized galleries that have closed in New York over the past few years, pressured by competition from better-capitalized, multinational peers, a softening of collector demand, and the increased costs of doing business as real-estate prices rise and art fairs remain a pricy but essential source of potential revenue for many dealers.
“New York used to be a place where independent and individual business models could strive and find immediate reward and evaluation,” Anke Kempkes, the gallery’s proprietor, said in an email to ARTnews. “Today we look at a very changed landscape, in which such initiatives are suffocated by gentrification and a rather generic form of competition that often takes too high a toll on people’s life quality and vision.”
Among the other factors that Kempkes cited in the gallery’s dissolution are “a strong generational change in the collectors’ community, the lack of commitment of a young generation to traditional institutions (e.g., in philanthropic and trustee engagements), [and] the auction houses creating price levels that are not competitive for the galleries while they are pushing into the primary market by absorbing independent market structures.”
The bankruptcy documents state that the gallery’s revenue declined from about $1.19 million in 2016 to about $602,000 last year, a drop of nearly 50 percent. The list of creditors includes the estates of Axell and Xanti Schawinsky as well as Tribeca dealer Hal Bromm, who last summer sued Kempkes and Broadway 1602, alleging that he is owed commissions on the sale of work by artist Rosemarie Castoro. Bromm showed Castoro for decades, and Broadway 1602 began presenting her work in 2014. The suit, in part, concerns a dispute over whether Broadway 1602 was to pay the commission on all Castoro sales or only the sales of work held by Bromm. (Castoro died in 2015; a lawyer for Bromm declined to comment.)
Asked about the allegations in the suit, Kempkes said, “Both Hal Bromm and Broadway 1602 made important contributions to fostering the legacy of Rosemarie Castoro. It would be unfortunate for this legal action to draw any attention away from exciting developments in the critical recognition of her body of work.” She added, “I anticipate that the misunderstandings that led to this action will be resolved in the very near future.”
Broadway 1602 took its name from the street it opened on and the suite it first called home when it began operations in September of 2005 at Broadway and 28th Street in Manhattan. It quickly established itself as a leading light for reconsiderations and expansions of recent vanguard art history. “I recall the first show we had of Szapocznikow in our then-intimately-scaled apartment gallery in 2007, where virtually a whole caravan of museum directors and chief curators from the States walked through this miniature retrospective,” Kempkes said. “On the day of the opening I received calls from the very top league of MoMA trustees intending to gift the artist’s work to the museum—where, a few years later, Szapocznikow’s retrospective opened its doors.”
More critically acclaimed shows would follow, by Szapocznikow and others, including Nicola L and Edward Krasinksi, whose recognition has since increased considerably in New York, the United States, and internationally.
In early 2016, Broadway 1602 decamped from the Garment District to an Upper East Side location, on East 63rd Street, and another in East Harlem, on East 121st Street, the latter being a gallery complex where Tel Aviv’s Tempo Rubato and Zurich’s Freymond-Guth were also invited to set up spaces. (Freymond-Guth shuttered last year.)
“Although I am saddened by the closing of the gallery space, I will continue my commitment to showcasing the work of these pioneering artists through future collaborative ventures, curated shows, publications and education,” Kempkes said. “I am confident that Broadway 1602’s legacy will continue.”