Uncertainty is clouding the future of several Washington art galleries.
As of the end of business today, three up-and-coming establishments specializing in new talent will have closed "for the summer," but with no definite plans for the fall. They are:
* The Georgetown Art Gallery, which has already closed its doors after four years at 2611 P St. NW. The owners say they "hope to relocate in the fall in a larger space."
* The Jack Rasmussen Gallery, ending four years at 313 G St. NW. Rasmussen says he hopes to reopen in the fall in a better location, but does not yet know where. He will spend the summer, he says, looking for space and "figuring out how to survive--I mean how to flourish--in the '80s."
* Barbara Fiedler Gallery, 1621 21st St. NW, closing "just for the summer"--in the town house-gallery she has owned and occupied for seven years. The building is up for sale. "But I'll be back," she says, adding that financial reasons may force her to share her space with another dealership. "Or I may not--I just don't know right now. This summer will tell the tale."
Though all three dealers say they will keep doing business here, despite being caught in the double bind of rising costs and lower sales due to the recession, two other galleries--Diane Brown and McIntosh/Drysdale--are leaving Washington for good, both for personal reasons of their owners.
Nancy McIntosh Drysdale is following her husband to Houston, and plans to open a gallery there. Her departure date has not been set, but the last show on the schedule is sculpture by Dickson Carroll, which runs July 7 to 31.
Brown hopes to open a gallery in New York, but will deal privately from her new apartment there "until I figure out where I'd like to be located." Her last show, a group of gallery artists, will close in July with a big "Thank You Washington" party. In April, Brown closed her second "Sculpture Space" at 52 O St. NW, which she had occupied for three years.
"People are still buying, but it's tough," she says. "It's not just art. People are afraid to spend money. I feel like I--and other dealers here--have given Washington a lot of energy and a lot of effort, but Washington needs to do more to support its galleries, or it won't have any."
Most dealers agree that the economy has affected their business, but that good works continue to sell. "Business is terrible," says Barbara Fiedler. "Some are doing well, but I think we're all hanging on to see what happens . . . The idea is to survive.
"I think it's going to turn around and that the real hard-working, serious people will survive."
The departure of Brown and McIntosh--two of the best and most adventurous galleries in town--leaves not only a large gap in the gallery scene here, but also leaves two out of six gallery spaces vacant at 406 Seventh St. NW. The 2-year-old gallery complex, known as "406," has served as a catalyst in the development of Seventh Street as a downtown art center. Several other dealers and arts organizations, including the city's leading alternative space--the Washington Project for the Arts--have been attracted to the area since 406 opened two years ago.
But other departures from 406 may be imminent. It is widely thought that Newcomer/Westreich may be moving elsewhere or expanding at 406, and that Harry Lunn--the world's leading dealer in vintage photography--would not mind closing his art gallery here and working privately from his home in Paris. "If someone gives me $6 million for my business, I'll leave. Otherwise, I'll be here," says Lunn, who is also one of the owners of the 406 partnership.
There has also been considerable concern about the "Gallery Row" project across the street at 401-417 Seventh St. NW. Demolition of the old buildings stopped last December, and has not been resumed. According to owners Calvin Cafritz and Robert L. Lennon (who is also the major partner in 406), the project has been delayed because of a problem concerning party walls.
"We're definitely going ahead," says Cafritz, adding that the $5 million to $7 million project is currently out for bids. Lennon says that his hopes for Gallery Row, which they still hope will be finished in 1983, would include a bank, bars and restaurants on the first floor and lower level, and three floors of commercial space to house galleries and art-related organizations and businesses. "My dream," says Lennon, "would be to have one or more privately endowed museums--like the Getty--open mini-museums on Seventh Street, the rationale being that they would get important exposure in the nation's capital." Lennon says he has had "lots of requests for space," but no contracts have been signed.
Two bits of good news: The Grimaldis Gallery of Baltimore has decided to open a gallery here and is seeking space. And private dealer Jean Pierre Andino, a former associate of Ramon Osuna, is considering opening in one of the soon-to-be-available galleries at 406.