The Manhattan gallery Long Story Short is hosting a new type of exhibition this summer: Instead of commissioning artists, it asked 94 gallerists to create the works on view. Each piece is on sale for $500, but buyers won’t know who created which until the show closes on July 30.
Titled Art (by) Dealers, the exhibition kicked off Friday, July 7, with a packed opening. By Sunday afternoon, the gallery walls were speckled with red dots: 64 works had been sold. All proceeds are going to the Lower East Side Girls Club, a nonprofit that provides educational programming and wellness services to young people in the city.
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Long Story Short opened its Lower Manhattan location in 2022 and focuses on emerging artists. Its owner, Will Leung, hopes the project will bring galleries — and buyers — together.
“The majority of dealers are right next to each other,” Leung said of the way New York City galleries are geographically clustered. “And they don’t really talk to each other much.” He envisions a buyer discovering that their newly purchased artwork was created by someone they had never heard of, then visiting their gallery and developing a relationship.
“It’s funny when I’m watching people buy the work,” said Leung. “They think they’re buying the right one, and I can’t wait to see the look on their face when they find out it’s not the dealer they expected.”
The “artists” in the show range from dealers at blue-chip mega-galleries to directors of small and newer outposts, but Leung wanted to encourage viewers to make their purchases based simply on which artworks they wanted to bring home and live with.
“It’s tough if you don’t make art on a regular basis,” gallery owner Derek Eller, one of the show’s participants, told Hyperallergic. “There’s this question of, ‘What do I want to make a work of art about, and how do I go about doing it?’” Eller, who moved to New York at 23 to become an artist, said he hasn’t made art in the 26 years since he opened his namesake gallery. Still, the dealer said he became obsessed with the project. “I ended up giving it priority over my job,” he said.
Some of the works on view are painstakingly detailed. Others look like they were made the night before the opening. Pets make frequent appearances, but other works are stranger. A canvas with words scrawled in essential oils perfumes the entire room, and one dealer crafted a plastic toy snake peering out of a mail slot. Nearly all participants adhered to the nine-by-12-inch size requirement.
The exhibition includes a number of works that seem to be autobiographical. One portrays an artist’s studio littered with cigarettes and cans of Diet Coke. A delicate drawing depicts the now-closed Spitzer’s Corner restaurant at the corner of Ludlow and Rivington Streets.
Other submissions have a self-deprecating or humorous tone. One reads, “I’m not sure if this is really art,” and another is covered in tinfoil that says “remove after purchasing.” Both have been sold. Another artwork, which the creator allegedly described as a “landscape,” comprises printed envelopes stuffed with six $100 bills. (Leung assured that the bank notes were real and noted that the work’s buyer actually made $100.)
Kathy Huang, the managing director at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery, partnered with Leung in putting together the show. They conceived of the idea last fall while spending time with Anna Park and Mike Lee, two artists who were participating in upcoming charity exhibitions. Huang explained that the events often require artists to make small artworks without much notice.
“I don’t know if a lot of dealers realize how hard it is to make a small work,” said Huang. “There’s really not a lot of room for error.” This spring, Huang and Leung sent invitations and instructions for Art (by) Dealers to around 150 gallerists; 130 initially said yes, but only 94 ended up actually participating.
“I’m being honest, at first I said ‘Hell no, I can’t make art,’” Brandy Carstens, senior director of Matthew Brown Gallery in Los Angeles, told Hyperallergic. “But Kathy and Will were super encouraging, and the idea behind the show is fantastic. It’s for a great cause, and many dealers started off as artists (myself included). It was humbling to try and make something good (I didn’t).”