Meet the Downtown Gallerists Trying to Make the Art Scene Less Wack

Marlborough, which once represented Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, and which more recently was home to a roster of buzzy young artists like Kuo, spherical sculptor Lars Fisk, and avant-garde collaborators Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, was poised to become the next Chelsea mega-gallery before it was derailed by a series of internecine lawsuits. During his tenure there, Spengemann helped build out the gallery’s emerging talent bench, and at Broadway he’ll be bringing some artists with him, as well as working with friends who didn’t fit into Marlborough’s programming. (The Lipke show, which features the Hudson-based artist’s Seussian paintings, is the culmination of a 20-year friendship.) “We can do whatever we want here, and that just wasn’t the case at Marlborough because there was higher overhead, and more cooks in the kitchen. Certainly we got to do a lot of exciting stuff there, but now we can try more things,” Spengemann said.

One such show marked the gallery’s debut: an exhibition by the Ho-Chunk nation artist Sky Hopinka, anchored by a 16-mm short film installation. (It was a hit: Times critic Holland Carter says Hopinka’s work at Broadway—and a concurrent survey at Bard—“rivals in visual and linguistic beauty any new art I’ve seen in some time.”) A sprawling group “homies” show featuring friends of the gallery like Devin Strother, Adrianne Rubinstein, Adrea Marie Breiling, Kuo, and many more is next.

Lipke installing her work. Cole and Spengemann found the space on Broadway by calling a number listed on an empty storefront.

Opening a gallery during a global pandemic is not without its difficulties. “The challenge is getting the collector base through the door,” says Spengemann, noting that many fled the city in the spring and tend to be on the older side. But the Palm Beach class is still buying—even this year’s mostly online Art Basel saw healthy action. “I think the art market, versus something like retail, is getting through this,” said Cole.


The most notable thing about Leo Fitzpatrick’s new gallery, aptly named Public Access, might be its location: a basement space on not-particularly artful St. Marks Place. Fitzpatrick, the actor whose breakout role as Telly in Larry Clark’s Kids thrust him into downtown fame at the tender age of 17, joined Marlborough in 2015 to organize experimental shows with the gallery, before leaving earlier this year. On a recent Friday evening, Fitzpatrick surveyed the scene—raucous outdoor diners, teenagers slouching eastward—and noted that it hadn’t occurred to him until recently that it was even possible to open a gallery on the legendary (if somewhat Disney-fied) stretch. “In my 25 years of hanging out on St. Marks, there was never a gallery,” he said. Planting his flag in the neighborhood he’s long called home didn’t come down to convenience or price but a decision that his gallery would stand apart from the mainstream art world: “The street,” Fitzpatrick said, “is dictating the type of stuff I want to show.”



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