Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Guild & Greyshkul, one of the most vibrant galleries in downtown Manhattan, is shutting down on Feb. 15, the latest casualty of the collapsing art market. Yet it won’t go quietly.
The Soho gallery’s last hurrah begins Thursday: a four-day extravaganza featuring the work of 120 artists. The show is a fitting end for an exhibition space known for nurturing young talent.
“I wake up at night thinking of what will happen to all the people who do more experimental work, artists who are in the beginning phases of their careers,” Johannes VanDerBeek, 26, one of the owners, said. “We’ll be as flexible as we can be with prices to get our artists a cushion of money.”
Guild & Greyshkul’s financial woes, a result of slowing sales and tanking prices, are growing commonplace in the art world. Since September, four galleries have shut their doors: Roebling Hall and Cohan and Leslie in Chelsea; Rivington Arms in the East Village and 31 Grand on the Lower East Side.
More established galleries are hurting, too. They’re firing staff, dropping out of art fairs and extending their shows for months in an attempt to cut expenses.
“Galleries are just hanging on with their fingernails,” said Matthew Armstrong, who curates the collection of Donald B. Marron’s Lightyear Capital, a New York private equity firm.
On a recent visit to Chelsea, Armstrong stopped by eight galleries.
“I was the only person in at least seven of them,” he said. “I wish the best to these guys, but it’s a little scary.”
Two weeks into its show of veteran German artist Imi Knoebel, Mary Boone’s Chelsea gallery hadn’t sold any of the seven works, priced between $170,000 and $325,000.
At the Gagosian Gallery on West 21st Street, Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto’s exhibition, which opened on Nov. 6, 2008, has been extended through March 7. The prices of some of his meditative seascapes have been reduced from $450,000 to $360,000, with plenty still available, the gallery said.
Cindy Sherman’s November exhibition at Metro Pictures did well, said gallery co-owner Helene Winer, but it wasn’t the sellout it would have been a year ago.
“Some of our big collectors said they weren’t buying, and I was shocked,” she said.
Since its founding in 2003, Guild & Greyshkul has attracted an eclectic community of artists, collectors, curators and critics. The partners -- VanDerBeek, his sister Sara VanDerBeek, 32, and their friend Anya Kielar, 30, -- are all artists with successful careers.
“They built a very culturally relevant program of both critically and commercially well-received artists,” said New York collector James Dorment, who has bought works by the gallery’s artists Ernesto Caivano and Trenton Duerksen. “I tried to see most of their shows. To me they were one of the most interesting emerging galleries.”
Although Guild & Greyshkul has served a broad collector base and put up new shows every four to five weeks, the gallery never made a profit, VanDerBeek said. All the extra money went right back into producing artists’ work.
“We managed always to keep even,” he said. “And as we were progressing, our exhibitions were getting more ambitious.”
In 2007, Guild & Greyshkul began doing shows that transformed the exhibit space. Artist Lisi Raskin installed a 30- by-20-foot ceiling that hung 7 feet off the floor. Coupled with orange light and a long apocalyptic drawing stretching around the entire space, the installation completely distorted the gallery experience.
The gallery’s overhead has averaged about $25,000 a month in the past three years. Since September, covering those costs has become increasingly difficult, VanDerBeek said.
“Sales when they did occur were at steep discounts on works that were mostly under $20,000,” VanDerBeek said. “People said they loved the pieces, but they were just not buying them.”
(Katya Kazakina is a reporter for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)