LAST year, Washington lost several good galleries to the recession, with some owners retreating to private dealership and others moving to New York and Texas.
This summer, though the closing of Lunn Gallery in July will be a major loss for the city, things seem to be looking up. New galleries are sprouting all over town and others are reopening after a season or two of hibernation. Still others will be shifting locations in a traditional spring rite that sometimes resembles a game of musical chairs.
Some of the shifts are as follows:
Middendorf/Lane, headquartered at 2009 Columbia Rd. NW, reports its best year ever, but it has quietly closed its Seventh Street gallery after two years there, and will probably not reopen in the fall.
"We've had an incredible last six months, thanks to the Gilliam and Christenberry shows at the Corcoran--the best we've ever had," says Chris Middendorf, "but all of it came out of the Columbia Road gallery. We love that downtown space, but running it is complicated. And since we now represent William Eggleston formerly with Lunn as well as William Christenberry--two of the real stars in color photography--we're expanding our photography department, and George Hemphill director of the Seventh Street gallery is coming up to Columbia Road to run it."
Middendorf says he will be adding space, but of a different sort. "We plan to rent or buy a warehouse building because the needs of the gallery now are to store and show large-scale works. But we can't do that in our Seventh Street space because we can't get the works up the stairs."
Though Middendorf has pulled out of Seventh Street, Jane Haslem Gallery plans to stay and possibly expand. Headquartered at 2121 P St. NW since 1972, she opened in the former McIntosh/Drysdale space at 406 Seventh St. NW last fall, and has just signed a lease for another year. "I think it's important for all the galleries to be located in the same area, and I think the Seventh Street area is it," says Haslem.
P Street Strip pioneer Henrietta Ersham disagrees, and after a two-year hiatus will be reopening the Henri Gallery on the third floor at 1500 21st St. NW (corner of 21st and P) in July. "I love this neighborhood, and I'm so excited, you'd think I never had a gallery before," says Henri, 75, who has been located at the same address since she opened the first gallery on the P Street Strip in 1967.
Henri occupied the whole building until 1981, when her landlord, real estate mogul Leo Bernstein, forced her to vacate all but her own apartment on the top floor. Since then she has continued to deal privately from her apartment, while carrying on a two-year, in-and-out-of-court battle over the space.
"I just sweated it out, and now Leo and I have kissed and made up," says Henri.
Over in Georgetown, Marie Martin Withers, director of the Lunn Gallery for the past five years, will open her own art gallery after Lunn closes in July. The new gallery, scheduled to open in September, will be located at a former Lunn Gallery location at 3243 P St. NW, now occupied by the photography gallery of Kathleen Ewing.
The new Martin Gallery will feature 19th- and early 20th-century photography, as well as contemporary photographs, prints, drawings and other works on paper. Says Withers, "Washington artists will be emphasized. I'm tired of hearing people say they have to go to New York to buy art." Lunn, who owns the building, will keep a Washington office at this address.
Though Kathleen Ewing will be displaced by this move, "my gallery will definitely relocate in the fall," she says, noting "a great resurgence in business over the last few months. I am looking at various possibilities, but no final decision about space has yet been made." Ewing will remain at 3243 P St. through July. Flood at the Fendrick
The Fendrick Gallery, 3059 M St., had to close last week when the pipes burst in the adjacent building, flooding the first floor and basement. "A minimal amount of art and 13 years of files are soggy messes," said a distraught Barbara Fendrick. She plans to reopen June 29 with a show of architectural drawings and models titled "Ornamentalism." The show had been scheduled to open June 21.
Correction: Taggart, Jorgensen & Putman, an interesting new gallery of 19th- and early 20th-century American and European art reviewed here recently, is located in Georgetown at 3241 P St. NW.