Paula Cooper, the longtime dealer who helped make Chelsea a landmark destination for galleries in New York, was startled when greeted by the smell of smoke on her way to work earlier today. “There was a lot of smoke on 22nd Street—I guess it was the wind blowing,” she said. “Everybody was outside.”
As first reported by the New York Post, a fire of unknown cause started on the second floor of 521 W. 21st St. today a little before noon. The blaze affected Paula Cooper’s storage space, though how much will be a matter of further assessment. “The fire marshall is here trying to determine what caused the fire,” Cooper said when reached around 4:30 p.m. “It started this morning and it was contained. No one got hurt, fortunately, and it didn’t spread. It was contained in our storage room. The fire department was great. People smelled smoke and called, and they were here immediately.”
Steve Henry, senior director at the gallery, said, “The works in the gallery were not threatened or damaged. It was the works stored in the back. All the works have to be pulled out and inspected, so a conservation team is coming tomorrow.”
Asked about possible destruction, Cooper said, “I’m sure there was some damage, definitely.” The extent of that damage remains to be seen, as the incident remains under investigation. But for now, the safety of workers counts as a blessing. “Our neighbors have been so nice,” Cooper said of support she and her gallery have gotten from 303 Gallery, Sikkema Jenkins & Co., Gagosian, and Tanya Bonakdar. “What a life.”
Henry said, “Despite what we hear about the state of the art world, there is a community and people care about each other.”
As reported last month, Paula Cooper Gallery recently announced plans to temporarily relocate its headquarters in a different building across the street, at 534 W. 21st St., to West 26th Street, on account of construction on another building nearby. The new space will be inaugurated in mid-September with an exhibition commemorating the gallery’s 50th anniversary with works by Sol LeWitt, Jennifer Bartlett, Jackie Winsor, Dan Flavin, and more.
Update, July 10, 5:25 p.m.: This story has been updated to include comment from Steve Henry.