When Commercial Galleries “Flatline,” Apartment Galleries Give Hugs

March 6, 2009 · Print This Article

Deanna Isaacs reports in The Reader this week that Flatfile Galleries will close their doors on March 27. This comes on the heels of Rowland Contemporary’s demise last December. Are these the first of many deaths to come? Most likely. But there’s a bright side to this undeniably sad news, and it lies in Chicago’s thriving apartment and alternative gallery scene. Although I haven’t been living in these parts for long, and I’m definitely still feeling my way around,  it seems to me that Chicago’s art world is uniquely primed not only to weather these disastrous economic times but to thrive in the midst of them. Now, I’m not trying to get all Holland Carter on your asses (see Carter’s Feb. 15th essay in the New York Times for what I’m referring to; earlier this week New York magazine writer Alexandra Peers offered a gloomier rebuttal of Carter’s sunny outlook for recession-era art). My point is that Chicago’s artists, indie curators and writers have been doing their own thing for a long time: running tiny galleries and think-tank type workshops out of spare rooms in their homes and apartments, creating flexible art and cultural storefront spaces whose content isn’t solely object- or market-driven–eh, you’re all BAS listeners, you don’t need me to tell you this.  I’m not denying that a crap art market has seriously bad ripple effects on everyone; but in these times the Chicago art world–especially the one that’s a bit harder to find and is usually only open on Saturdays, Sundays, or by appointment–offers a powerful and creative model of how to carry on with the business of art when the art business is going down the tubes. I, for one, am glad I’m here right now.