In a bid for institutional longevity and a hedge against what is perceived by some observers as overheated speculative market conditions in contemporary art, the critically lauded Bushwick gallery Interstate Projects has decided to become a nonprofit organization. The decision, announced in a newsletter on Thursday, comes after four years of operation as a for-profit entity, a period during which Interstate has seen its exhibitions covered in Artforum, Art in America, Frieze, Modern Painters, and The New York Times’ T Magazine, among others.
Though the gallery has attended art fairs and is a member of the New Art Dealers Alliance, it has often pursued commercially challenging exhibition formats (Interstate is currently showing a film by Nick DeMarco and an installation-cum-performance series curated by Seung-Min Lee). “Becoming a nonprofit allows us to apply for grants and get a more stable, annualized flow [of funds] that’ll let us continue to do the kind of shows we want to do,” executive director Tom Weinrich told us.
As discussion of what appears to be an increasingly speculative environment in emerging contemporary art sales continues apace — what Weinrich calls “the changing dynamic of the art market” — the decision by Interstate to abandon profit-seeking status represents a lack of confidence in the ability of current commercial condition to sustain experimental galleries. “That’s something we don’t want to be part of, and we’re working with a lot of emerging artists who can get caught up in that part of the art market, and that’s fine, and that can be good for them, but it can also be bad for their careers too,” he said. “We wanted to continue to give people the ability where they can do a show where they don’t have to worry about that and focus on the show, focus on the work.”
But Weinrich stresses that the decision to turn the gallery he founded in 2011 and runs with curatorial director Jamie Sterns into a nonprofit was a positive, not negative, choice, noting that he hasn’t had to blacklist any collectors or block sales. “[Our decision] is not directed at anyone in general or anyone specifically. For us it’s about thinking about our future as a space to do what we do in a stable way, without compromising,” he said. Weinrich hopes that the nonprofit model will allow the gallery to exist for at least a decade and hopefully outlast his and Sterns’ involvement.
As for the critical attention his gallery’s exhibitions have garnered, Weinrich stated that the relationship between praise and sales is “completely disconnected at this point.” He added: “I don’t know how that happened or when that happened, but it feels like that has happened recently. A New York Times review or an Artforum review doesn’t necessarily portend selling any work, the selling of the work just seems like it comes from back channels in a weird way, that’s the way its gone.”
The gallery filed for New York State nonprofit status in September of last year, and is now applying for federal 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service, a process that takes as long as nine months. A separate framing and production operation run by Weinrich that has in the past prepared work for exhibition at Interstate, Knickerbocker Frames, will remain in operation as its own business.
— Mostafa Heddaya (@mheddaya)
(Photo: Courtesy of Interstate Projects)