This May, two of today’s more prominent galleries for up-and-coming artists will merge. Zach Feuer, of the eponymous Chelsea gallery and Joel Mesler of the Lower East Side’s Untitled will together open Feuer/Mesler and Mesler/Feuer, two spaces on the L.E.S. that will share programming, artists, and resources.
“The idea for the merger here is it allows both of us to increase our square footage,” Feuer said in a phone call with Mesler and ARTnews on Tuesday, “and it doubles our contacts with collectors, curators, museum people—all relationships.”
Each dealer will have an office at one of the gallery’s two locations—with Mesler, and Mesler/Feuer, operating out of Untitled’s current space at 30 Orchard Street. Feuer will have his office at Feuer/Mesler, a new, 3,500-square-foot loft space on the second floor of 319 Grand Street.
“I’ve been in Chelsea for 15 years and I kinda wanted a change,” Feuer said. “I have a better time when I see shows on the Lower East Side, and I don’t mean that as a knock on Chelsea in any way.”
“It’s an interesting time for galleries on the Lower East Side,” Mesler said, noting that many dealers there now have enough of a following that they’re able to move to spaces above street level. “It’s become an establishment in and of itself.” He pointed out that the new Grand Street location puts the two right in the heart of a burgeoning scene, about a block away from Gavin Brown’s new outpost and the new 47 Canal space, which are both located at 291 Grand Street.
The move says much about the dynamics of New York’s gallery districts, as Chelsea becomes ever more expensive, with mega galleries like David Zwirner and Hauser & Wirth taking over ever more real estate there. Hauser & Wirth recently announced that they will build a new, 7,400-square-foot, multistory building designed by Annabelle Selldorf next door to what will soon be Feuer’s old space on West 22nd Street. Meanwhile, well-established galleries like Marianne Boesky and Salon 94 have been opening up branches on the L.E.S., which was once home only to fledgling dealers.
In past years, the progression for Feuer and Mesler (an ARTnews columnist) might have been: two galleries on the rise join forces to go toe-to-toe with the blue chips in Chelsea. Now such an option may not have even been possible.
Both dealers said that wasn’t what they wanted. They also said that they have no real ethos or mission statement, and that they will continue to operate independently and experimentally, showing artists not just at their new gallery but working with other spaces to promote them as well.
“I think by us not getting a singular, 20,000-square-foot space, getting another location with different architecture says stuff about the mission statement, what our intentions are,” Mesler said.
“We’re not trying to be a giant corporate mega gallery,” Feuer said. “We’re trying to do something different.”
Untitled opened in September 2010, and before that Mesler operated Rental Gallery, originally in his native Los Angeles, moving it to East Broadway, on the L.E.S., in 2007.
Feuer started his gallery in 2000 as LFL, with Nick Lawrence and Russell LaMontagne, and bought out his partners in 2004. He was on West 24th Street until 2010, when he moved to his current space on West 22nd.
The two dealers started their public collaboration with a 2013 summer show called, “Jew York,” which showcased Jewish artists—from Diane Arbus to Dustin Yellin—across their separate galleries. (Mesler, an artist himself, also had a performance piece in that show, in which a Jewish tailor who operates near Untitled outfitted gallery goers for suits near Feuer’s entrance.)
Last summer the two opened a gallery together in Hudson, New York, called Retrospective a name that, Mesler told T: The New York Times Style Magazine, speaks to the “speed of the art world” but also “sounds like an ’80s rock band.” (Retrospective is here to stay with the merger. Feuer and Mesler said they just renewed its lease, and it should be said that Mesler/Feuer and Feuer/Mesler are not without the cadence of a ’70s cop show.)
Untitled seemed to be something of a finishing school for certain kinds of artists and came to be known for shows of younger artists who have seen quick rises to success, critical or otherwise, among them N. Dash, Parker Ito, and Kour Pour.
Feuer served something of a similar role in Chelsea, albeit on a different scale and over longer periods of time. He’s shown artists like Dana Schutz, Marianne Vitale, and Jules de Balincourt. Feuer and Mesler have already both shown a few of the same artists, like Brad Troemel.
The two will continue to work with the same artists, and, they said, likely pick up a few more along the way. For their opening shows, Feuer/Mesler will present an exhibition of work by Feuer standbys Jon Rafman and Keren Cytter, while Mesler/Feuer will feature a solo exhibition by Untitled newcomer Brie Ruais. The gallery has also planned shows with Zach Harris, Artie Vierkant, Jeremy DePrez, and Serge Attukwei Clottey.
Though the name change and moves represent a proper merger, the dealers said they did intend to remain fairly independent, and that the origins of the change are less about New York City gallery district politics than international practicalities.
“What made me start thinking about [a merger] was that I couldn’t be everywhere at once,” Feuer said. “We did the Hong Kong art fair and it was the same time as this huge Mark Flood show we did, the Insider Art fair, so I had to miss” that. Now, he said “there are better logistics. We can be in two places at once, which was really hard to do beforehand. The business isn’t just us sitting in our office all day, this is a job that’s 30 or 40 percent travel, and it’s going to make the job a lot easier.” (Untitled, for its part, has been without a partner since Carol Cohen left last spring. She is now a director at Metro Pictures.) The new gallery should have double the employees of both of the old galleries, as Feuer said he hoped to build a better “infrastructure” for what each of the two does.
“It’s definitely a maturing or a developing of our two galleries,” Mesler said, “Taking the next step, taking the next step in a way that works for us. But I definitely do see it as the next step, in gallery growth and operating growth.”