On Sunday, the 40-year-old New York gallery Metro Pictures announced that it will close toward the end of 2021.
The announcement email sent by the gallery referenced “a demanding year of pandemic-driven programming, and the anticipated arrival of a very different art world,” and included a statement from gallery founders Helene Winer and Janelle Reiring: “We have decided to announce this difficult decision far in advance of our closing in order to give the artists we represent and our staff time to pursue other options and to allow us to participate in their transitions. We are extremely grateful to all of the brilliant artists we have worked with over the past 40 years and to our excellent staff, who have sustained the gallery and its program. We would also like to thank all of the critics, curators, collectors and fellow dealers with whom we have worked over the years.”
The gallery is perhaps best known for its longtime worldwide representation of artist Cindy Sherman.
This marks the second major gallery closing during the time of the pandemic. Last summer, established gallery Gavin Brown’s Enterprise closed, with Brown becoming a partner at Gladstone Gallery, and taking a number of his artists with him.
Founded in 1980, Metro Pictures was launched by Winer, director of Artists Space, and Reiring, who had been working at Leo Castelli Gallery at the time. It first opened in New York’s SoHo neighborhood and established itself early on as a go-to gallery for artists involved with a loose movement known as the Pictures Generation, which envisioned a world filled with images.
Artists such as Sherman, Louise Lawler, Robert Longo, Jack Goldstein, Sherrie Levine, James Welling, and more, all of whom made photo- or film-based work that relied heavily on appropriation and questioned ideas about authorship, had some of the earliest shows at the gallery. Some of these art-historical giants, such as Sherman, Lawler, and Longo, have continued to maintain representation at the gallery throughout their careers.
The exhibitions by these artists evinced a rigorous, sly sensibility that would come to define the gallery’s offerings. In 1982, Lawler exhibited arrangements of works by Metro Pictures–represented artists, effectively presenting these displays as her own art, and that same year, Sherman showed her “Pink Robes” series, in which she posed before her own camera donning just that article of clothing.
Reiring and Winer’s gallery continued to present outré shows throughout the ’80s. Mike Kelley had his first New York show at Metro Pictures in 1982, and Jim Shaw, René Daniëls, Martin Kippenberger, John Miller, Gary Simmons, and others had key exhibitions at the gallery during this time.
Since 1997, Metro Pictures has been located in Chelsea. It has continued to take on artists focused on the flow of imagery, such as Trevor Paglen, Camille Henrot, Sara VanDerBeek, Oliver Laric, the Gretchen Bender estate, and more, as well as others like Cui Jie, Latifa Echakhch, Isaac Julien, and more.
Alex Greenberger contributed reporting.