On a typical summer evening, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising to see a tumbleweed roll through the empty streets of West Chelsea. But things looked quite a bit different on Wednesday night.
In an effort to lure fresh blood to New York’s art galleries, which have seen a demoralizing drop in foot traffic of late, the Art Dealers Association of America held its inaugural Chelsea Art Walk, for which around 30 galleries stayed open late.
The surprisingly low-tech strategy to draw crowds during the dog days of summer was reasonably successful. Armed with simple paper maps, clusters of visitors strolled the streets with plastic cups of wine in hand. (This is also a throwback: Once a reliable source of free booze, many gallery openings have stopped offering liquid refreshments.)
To add liveliness to the event, many participants offered special programming: Lehmann Maupin, for example, hosted a performance followed by a conversation between artist Nicholas Hlobo and SCAD Museum of Art curator Storm van Janse van Rensburg. Meanwhile, curator Gabriela Rengel spoke with Carolee Schneemann at Galerie Lelong & Co., and at Julie Saul Gallery, artist Zeke Berman was on hand to advise visitors how to create their own D.I.Y. still life compositions.
With a dose of skepticism, we decamped to see who would turn up, and why. Here is a selection of the many game visitors who are still making an effort to see art the old-fashioned way: in person.
Occupation: Documentary filmmaker, writer, and programmer.
What brought you here? My friend and I wanted to meet up tonight, and we were excited to have this event, since the gallery openings are usually on Thursdays—it worked out perfectly.
What kind of art are you into? I’m always keeping an eye out for repertory screenings (revival cinema houses, older films that are being shown), and so I generally keep an eye out for the art scene in general.
Age: Both 26
Occupation: Megan works in freelance art sales, Matthew is a graphic designer.
What brought you here? We’re on vacation, in town visiting from Denver, and we saw this advertised online. We both used to live in Brooklyn, and wanted to come see what art was around—it’s his birthday this weekend, so we’re celebrating.
Where are you from? The Bronx.
What do you do? I’m a bike messenger.
What brought you here? I come to galleries pretty regularly—I’m an illustrator, and so am always interested in what’s going on in the galleries— looking for things to excite, surprise, and inspire me.
Where are you from? New York City, by way of Iran.
What do you do? I’m a lapsed art historian, currently a furniture designer.
What brought you here? I went to graduate school to study contemporary art, and I go to galleries and museum shows whenever I can, if it seems worth going to.
Where are you all from? All Upper West Side, New York-born and raised.
What is your relationship to art?
Roberta: I’m a collector. I like to see emerging artists, and see who’s new and exciting.
Bernice: I’m a psychotherapist, and an art enthusiast.
Zeke: I’m a photographer [whose work is included in “D.I.Y.: Made in the Studio” at Julie Saul Gallery].
Barbara: Interior designer and art enthusiast.
What brought you here? We’re all here to support Bernice’s cousin, Zeke Berman, who’s showing right now [at Julie Saul Gallery]. We’re going to all the galleries for the art walk.
Occupation: Food and beverage manager for a catering company in Manhattan.
Where are you from? Amsterdam. I’m in New York for at least another year, and then hopefully longer (fingers crossed).
What brought you here? I have a friend who is a curator, and she invited me to come along. This is my first time in Chelsea galleries, and it feels very much like a classic “New York” experience.
Will you be back? Oh, for sure.
Age: All 16
Do you come here often? This is our first time in an art gallery! It’s great, it’s fun.
What brought you here?
Troy: I’m an intern at [art nonprofit and art video producer] Art21, and my supervisor suggested I come.
Valletta: My father works in the music industry, so I like to go to artsy things like this… but mostly we’re just along for the ride.
Where are you from? Johannesburg, South Africa
What do you do? I’m an artist… this is my show.