Art dealer Marc Jancou, his jeans soaked to the knees, stood outside his gallery on West 24th Street in Chelsea supervising a clean-up brigade wielding mops and buckets.
A walk through New York’s epicenter of contemporary art on Tuesday afternoon revealed wide-spread damage. The floodwaters of Hurricane Sandy smashed walls, ravaged office spaces and destroyed artworks.
The fallout from the hurricane continued to affect New York’s art world today, with Sotheby’s rescheduling its Impressionist sale by three days due to travel difficulties. The power outage downtown forced the New Museum to suspend its public programs and events while it closes. A host of galleries said they would have to postpone openings in the next two weeks because of flooding and lack of power.
Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern art evening sale has been moved to Nov. 8 from Nov. 5.
“This revised timeline will give our clients and international staff greater flexibility to view the exhibition and participate in the auction,” Sotheby’s (BID) said in a statement.
The flooding and power outages have forced many galleries, including Pace, David Zwirner, Cheim & Read and Lehmann Maupin to postpone exhibition openings scheduled to coincide with the big auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s.
In Chelsea, next door to Jancou, the water rose about three feet at Susan Inglett Gallery, puddling into a large pond.
With power out all over Chelsea, galleries resorted to flashlights for illumination.
“This is like a disaster zone,” said Jancou. “Everyone was flooded. Everyone has lost so much art.”
Art dealers and handlers scrambled to move artworks into dry areas. People scooped water by buckets and large garbage bins.
“It’s bad,” said Rachel Churner, who opened Churner and Churner gallery on Tenth Avenue a year-and-a-half ago. Wet cardboard and paintings in bubble wrap piled up on the sidewalk in front of the entrance.
“I’ve probably lost $100,000 worth of art. Our basement is wet all the way to the ceiling,” she said. Churner said the gallery is insured. But she feared “that there’s some act of God or hurricane clause.”
On West 19th Street, Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert gallery, which has an exhibition space on the basement level, was completely flooded.
“It’s all under water,” said Erika Burgos, who has been with the gallery for 10 years, pointing her flashlight at the flooded staircase leading downstairs. She said she managed to save a few pictures.
Across the street, at David Zwirner, art handlers were moving paintings to dry ground. The watermark from flooding was visible on the doors and walls several feet from the ground. It was the same story at Paula Cooper and Gagosian galleries on West 21st Street, where a giant Henry Moore sculpture, in protective wrapping, could be seen through the window.
The true damage will take “a long time to shake out,” said art dealer Leo Koenig. “It brings tears to my eyes. I don’t care about the damage to the gallery. That’s fixable. The irreplaceable art that has been lost -- that’s the worst of it.”
Art dealer Margaret Thatcher, who operates a gallery on West 23rd Street, pointed to a folder of approximately 40 drawings for an upcoming exhibition. Priced at $5,000 each, all were soaked.
“They are all destroyed,” she said. “We need federal funding, this is a devastated area.”
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