Artinfo has an exclusive on the upcoming merger of Chelsea’s ZieherSmith and Horton Gallery, currently on the Lower East Side. By September, the two galleries will merge into one entity, dubbed Zieher Smith & Horton. The combined venture will retain the current, spacious home of ZieherSmith, at 516 West 20th Street. Both galleries plan to keep their distinctive rosters of represented artists. For ZieherSmith that includes Allison Schulnik, Chuck Webster, Lauren Silva, and Rachel Owens; Horton currently reps Trudy Benson, Echo Eggebrecht, and others.
September’s show will feature works by Phillipe Weisbecker, with exhibitions from Jesse Littlefield and Whitney Biennial stand-out Elijah Burgher on the horizon. “It’s a completely unified collaboration — all exhibitions are being presented together,” says Andrea Zieher, who runs the eponymous gallery along with husband Scott Zieher. “The schedule will feature a mix of artists previously shown by ZieherSmith and Horton Gallery, but also new artists and shows that encompass the collaborative nature.”
Sean Horton has a long history with his two new partners — press materials note that he bought the first artwork in his personal collection from ZieherSmith. Originally a downtown-based dealer via Sunday L.E.S. on Eldridge Street, he later opened a small space on West 22nd before relocating once again to the border of Chinatown with a Chrystie Street space in late 2012.
Horton is eager to leave certain trappings of his former L.E.S. digs behind. “You want your shows to be seen by the largest audience possible,” he explained to Artinfo. “You don’t want collectors commenting on the smell of cabbage when they’re considering a painting. It’s heartbreaking to mount an important, beautiful show that few people see because the gallery is two blocks out of the way.” Another upside, he said, is “positioning emerging art alongside the museum-quality exhibitions in Chelsea,” and perhaps avoiding what he calls the occasionally “scene-based” art prevalent in the L.E.S. “I mean art that is first and foremost an extension of a social scene,” he explained, when asked to elaborate. “It often doesn’t have an understanding of its history or appreciation of things like time, skill, or development.”
Much has been made of the effect that raising rents in the High Line era have had on Chelsea businesses, art-related and otherwise. Andrea Zieher acknowledges those developments, but said the gallery is in an enviable position due to “a long lease with a great landlord,” certainly a rarity in today’s climate. Regardless, the Zieher Smith & Horton model seems like an interesting one for galleries looking to thrive despite financial pressures—especially galleries who aren’t interested in moving downtown or to Brooklyn in order to stay afloat. While those neighborhoods certainly have their appeal, the Ziehers and Horton are banking on Chelsea’s longevity and inclusivity. “You don’t need to be an insider to find the galleries in the neighborhood,” Zieher said. “Tourists are often amazed when we point out how easy it is for them to navigate. I’ve seen the impact some of our shows have had art students on their first trip to New York — it’s inspiring.”
In the meantime, check out the final shows at each gallery before they combine: A work of comically pornographic graphite drawings by Ion Birch at Horton Gallery, and the Smiths-inspired group show, “All a tremulous heart requires,” at ZieherSmith.
— Scott Indrisek (@indrisek)
(Photo, from left: Andrea Smith, Scott Zieher, and Sean Horton)