Postmasters’s Magda Sawon on Closing the Tribeca Gallery to Go Nomadic

Postmasters’s Magda Sawon on Closing the Tribeca Gallery to Go Nomadic

Artwork Market

Brian P. Kelly

Founders Tamas Banovich and Magda Sawon in entrance of Postmasters.

On Tuesday, storied New York gallery Postmasters introduced in an electronic mail that its present exhibition could be the final at its Tribeca house. Magda Sawon and Tamas Banovich, who co-founded the gallery practically 4 a long time in the past, wrote that they’d be vacating “on very quick discover” after “shedding a protracted authorized battle with our landlord over a Covid lease settlement.” There are not any plans for a brand new storefront, however the gallery plans to go nomadic in a format labeled Postmasters 5.0.

Talking with Artsy, Sawon didn’t need to go into particular particulars about the true property scenario as authorized proceedings are ongoing. Nonetheless, she identified the irony that Tribeca’s booming gallery scene—and the accompanying sky-high rents that it entails—is due at the least partly to Postmasters’s longstanding presence within the space.

“We have been one of many very first [galleries] right here in Tribeca in 2013—mainly the primary resettling gallery from Chelsea. There was no one right here, so we have been a vacation spot ourselves, after which steadily the neighborhood got here to be stuffed up with extra galleries,” she mentioned. “Now it’s saturated with galleries, and there’s extra coming,” she added, explaining that the inflow of keen renters means landlords have a lot of energy.

Set up view the exhibition “Can You Digit” at Postmasters in 1996. Courtesy of Postmasters Gallery.

The gallery has persistently been on the vanguard of digital and conceptual artwork in New York. Along with being a pioneer of the Tribeca scene, its earlier areas—first the East Village, then SoHo, then Chelsea—have been on the forefront of assorted neighborhoods’ creative makeovers. Equally, the gallery has a confirmed monitor file of being prescient within the sort of work it reveals. It gave early reveals to acclaimed conceptual and new media artists like Paul Ramírez Jonas, Alix Pearlstein, Spencer Finch, Omer Quick, Rafaël Rozendaal, Austin Lee, and Hugh Hayden, amongst others.

Moreover, its 1996 exhibition of screen-based artwork, “Can You Digit,” was historic for presenting digital artwork with the identical seriousness as extra conventional varieties. It included work from Craig Kalpakjian, George Legrady, Lev Manovich (now higher recognized for his writing on digital tradition), and Erwin Redl, and a still-living web site for the present is a digital artifact itself, together with its data for potential collectors: “Most work obtainable on floppy discs or CD-s, particular editions. please inquire by e-mail, fax or cellphone.”

It additionally bears emphasizing, notably now in 2022, that Postmasters has had a long-standing digital artwork program—which is able to proceed with out change after the gallery vacates its bodily house. The gallery was an early adopter of NFTs and has labored with main artists within the discipline, akin to Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, who created one of many first artwork NFTs.

Postmasters’s departure may think of related high-profile shakeups brought on by the pandemic: Gavin Brown’s Enterprise closed in July 2020, with its founder becoming a member of the crew at Gladstone Gallery; and in December 2021, Metro Photos shuttered after 40 years. Nonetheless, Sawon is obvious that that is merely the beginning of a brand new iteration of the gallery, calling it “a hopscotch.”

Set up view of Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung’s exhibition “The Travelogue of Dr. Mind Damages” at Postmasters in 2011. Courtesy of Postmasters Gallery.

Discovering a smaller house was by no means an possibility for Sawon—“shrinking,” she known as it, wouldn’t really feel proper “after 38 years of sort of pushing diversified envelopes on a regular basis.” She believes that nomadism provides a extra sustainable mannequin than sustaining a stationary house. “I’m certain many different galleries are of comparable thoughts proper now,” she mentioned, noting that “there’s this wrestle between exhibiting what sells and what you suppose is wonderful. The Venn diagram between the 2 isn’t at all times that nice.”

She additionally defined that the choice to go nomadic sprang from her refusal to compromise the gallery’s programming. “We actually have a really fastened concept of what sort of artwork we’re excited by and how much artwork we need to present,” she mentioned, which requires “some type of a brand new mannequin of operating a gallery—and particularly operating a gallery that reveals difficult and ahead pondering artwork.”

In sensible phrases, Sawon plans to seek for vacant areas that complement the actual reveals she’s planning—smaller areas for extra intimate displays, bigger ones for extra sprawling shows. She was fast to level out that these could be prolonged exhibitions, not pop-up reveals, which she known as “flash mob exhibitions.”

Whereas she hasn’t finalized venues for any future reveals—she mentioned she’s presently planning on containing her search to Manhattan—a pair of exhibitions has been introduced for the autumn: “a monumental, groundbreaking present of BarabasiLAB on networks and knowledge as new realism…and a large-scale multimedia undertaking by the exceptional collaborative crew of Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw.” The previous, often known as the Middle for Complicated Community Analysis at Northeastern College, might be collaborating with the gallery for the primary time, whereas the latter duo has been represented by Postmasters for a number of years.

Set up view of LoVid’s exhibition “maintain on,” with digital tapestries and NFTs, at Postmasters in 2022. Courtesy of Postmasters Gallery.

Sawon mentioned she’s most excited in regards to the alternative “to be a bit bit extra improvisational and a bit bit looser.” Now that she’s freed from a static bodily gallery, her calendar could be much less regimented, she will be able to search out areas that greatest match the work she’s exhibiting as a substitute of being confined to a set structure—and he or she’ll be freed from the “exorbitant” lease, which she known as “an albatross.”

However being on the transfer additionally presents its personal challenges, particularly retaining guests knowledgeable and getting them to indicate up. She hopes that Postmasters’s monitor file pays dividends on that entrance. “I believe that we’ve got constructed a particular viewers for the gallery over these years, so we do have a sure forex that can give individuals sufficient curiosity to see the subsequent factor that we’re doing,” she defined.

Simply as necessary in her thoughts, although, is to make use of this mannequin to take care of the sense of group that’s grown across the artwork itself. “A gallery [is] greater than a spot to promote artwork to collectors,” she mentioned. “I really like [the] viewers. I really like the truth that individuals come, they usually see, they usually’re not right here to purchase.” It may not be the sentiment that one would count on from a gallery that’s going nomadic to assist lower overhead, however it is a sign of Sawon’s dedication to elevating the profiles of the artists she cares about. “They’re right here to see and expertise the art work,” she continued. “I believe that’s probably the most wonderful and fascinating factor you possibly can provide, and by some means I’ve to assist that notion if that’s one thing we think about necessary.” With Postmasters 5.0, she’s attempting to just do that.

Brian P. Kelly

Brian P. Kelly is Artsy’s Artwork Market Editor.

Genie Mathena

Learn More →