How Are New York’s Art Types Riding Out Hurricane Sandy? [Updated]

We’ve been reaching out to people in New York’s art world to see how they’re handling the storm. Some of

The storm. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

We’ve been reaching out to people in New York’s art world to see how they’re handling the storm. Some of their stories are below.

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**And we just checked in with art advisor Todd Levin, who had a tale of daring escape and iPhone heroism:

“Okay so this is an interesting story, or slightly interesting story. I had museum curatorial meetings scheduled and I left Saturday morning on the train to Philadelphia, and I met that afternoon, had lunch at the Philadelphia Museum of Art there and went back to my hotel room and checked in, and you could already tell that things were getting bad. When I left you could already tell that it was going to be a serious storm, but I remember Irene last year was pretty much far less than we were expecting, and, you know, I’m not flying, I’m taking Amtrak everywhere, so that shouldn’t have been a problem. I was scheduled to go on from Philadelphia, not that you need all the details, but, Monday I had this meeting in Baltimore, at the museum there, Tuesday I was meeting in Washington, D.C., at the Smithsonian, Wednesday I was scheduled to go down to the VFMA in Richmond, but when I returned from the luncheon at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I looked at the situation and how serious things were getting and decided there might be a problem with me, not even not going on with the trip, but getting back to New York, because I had just been told that Amtrak had shut down on the Eastern seaboard, which meant I couldn’t go onwards, I couldn’t go back, I would have been stuck in Philadelphia if they had a room, which I didn’t know that they did, for the next three or four more days.

So I called for a car, a rental car and we found one place that still had a few cars, I mean, a handful, literally you could count on one hand how many cars were left, and I immediately threw everything in a suitcase, checked out the hotel a day early, I left Sunday. I was going to leave Monday morning originally and went to the rental car place and I drove back to Manhattan,  the two and a half hours drive through the rain and dropped off the car, and that was Sunday night.

I’m from Detroit, I drive, I don’t have a car here, but I drive, I’m not uncomfortable driving in snow, I’m not uncomfortable driving in anything. It’s not a big deal but it’s not something I normally do either.

Hertz was fully booked, Avis was fully booked, you know, since the planes and the trains had been shuttered, everybody was immediately trying to find a car, so I managed to find one with National. National, when I got there, the woman literally held out five keys to me and said these five cars have just come in, they’re not even fully gassed up, that kind of thing, literally you can just jump in and go. Which one do you want? I took the smallest thing they had, because I didn’t need a big car and because they hadn’t been gassed up I needed to know that they had enough gas to get to New York, because they shut down gas stations and if I got stuck in extremely bad traffic and the drive became a five-hour drive you could just run out of gas in huge traffic jam.

So I didn’t know what to expect, I just wanted to make sure that there was enough gas in the tank, given the contingencies, because I’d also heard that they were, on that evening, starting to shut the tunnels and bridges at 7 p.m. I was in a car leaving at 3, it was a two-hour drive, and I only had four hours to get there. If i couldn’t make it, I would be shuttered out with nowhere to go.”

He got home to Midtown safe and sound of course. Then last night:

“I even went out, when the storm made landfall around 8:30 and took a walk just to see what it was like outside. In Midtown it’s really interestingly not so bad, there’s a little thing here, a little thing there. The worst thing I can say is the traffic lights are out and people are driving on the honor system.

The good news is I didn’t suffer any of the indignities that some of our other friends in the art world did with power and or internet, and or flooding and or, you know, everything else.”

Asked how he’d do with his newly cleared schedule, he said:

“What I did today, and I don’t know if I’ll have to do it tomorrow, is checking in with friends, and if they need stuff, assisting them. So I took a couple of lunches, like at a bodega or on the street, if they needed something. It’s just one of those things you do, when the power goes out or if there’s flooding like this, which is unusual, the first thing to do is check in with your friends and, you know, most of my friends are okay but a few here and there, not so much. So if they needed food or a charger or something, I brought my computer over earlier to somebody, so they could get a charge off of that for their iPhone, that sort of thing. You caught me in the middle of doing that. Everybody does it.”

** Leslie Tonkonow, a Chelsea dealer, shared this by e-mail from Uptown: “Working from home and trying to stay connected w/ gallery artists via phone and email. Agnes Denes’s show was scheduled to open on Thursday night but we’ll have to postpone it — we’ll probably open next week.”

** Jonah Freeman, artist: “I was in Williamsburg and I watched some movies and went to some restaurants. It was fairly normal.

I’m on South Fifth, near the water but there was no flooding, there was no nothing really. Everything shut down but there was no real destruction, of my life. I was in my apartment, my studio’s in Ridgewood and I don’t know what’s going on over there but I assume that that’s probably okay as well, unless there are some leaks in the roof. But it didn’t seem like there was a lot of water coming down from the sky. It seems like there were summer storms that were more dramatic than this.

In my studio I covered all the printers and electronics with plastic in case it was going to leak. All our expensive art materials were moved to the center of the room, away from the doors.

Everything [in Williamsburg] was completely shut down except there was one restaurant where we had a meal around four thirty, and they were shutting down at 5. But everything else was shut down, the delis were open.

We walked around a little bit but it was kind of unpleasant so we just went back and got a lot of nice food and wine and used it as a way of taking some time off.”

**Haim Steinbach, artist at the Williamsburg-Greenpoint border, in an email: “We had a scare, we boarded up our windows, we had 2.5′ water on our street and the basement had same. Now all water is gone. We are OK, thanks”

(Courtesy Haim Steinbach)
(Courtesy Haim Steinbach)
(Courtesy Haim Steinbach)

**Glenn O’Brien, man about the art world: “If you need me I’ll be in the 19th Century.”

**Ealan Wingate, director, Gagosian 24th Street: “I have not been [to the gallery] yet to assess damage. I am looking at some photographs I have of Gagosian 21st, which had some flooding, both spaces had flooding, but 21st, I think, because it its topographically lower than 24th street, or lower than our space on 24th street, more water entered the building. I’m not the person to speak with about that, though we don’t have the proper assessment.

There’s a view of the street [in the photographs] and you can see the amount of water that has gone up the building. I think the water reached at most probably around 2 feet. We are assessing things with people who know. There was art there but it was put high up on blocks. We have higher spot for it.

I live on the Upper West Side, in an apartment on the 9th floor and we did all right. The rest of my building did not, there were some windows facing east that popped out on the higher floors but other than that I would say we were extremely lucky. We didn’t have problems, personal problems.”

**Bill Powers, dealer: “We had no phone service in the West Village. This morning I had to use a pay phone. A pay phone! The guy in front of me, younger than me, was like, ‘How do I use this?'”

**Sean Kelly, dealer: “[Everything was] perfect as far, as I can tell. we’ve had no problems at all. We have no flooding [at the New Space at 36th and 10th], we have power, we have alarm system, everything seems to be a okay. As as far as the new space is concerned we seem to have passed the test with flying colors.

One of my colleagues, a friend of hers, works in one of the warehouses where they store art and they said they had flooding but certainly with our immediate contacts we’ve been very, very lucky.

We’ve never had a problem on 29th street… One of my colleagues has been over there we had gates but the gates are electric so we couldn’t actually physically get in but they said we couldn’t see any problems. They checked out David Nolan and that all looked tight and dry, it doesn’t seem that we have a problem over there. Historically we’ve never had a problem over there.

The only way out of the city right now is the Lincoln Tunnel and of course the new space is close to that so that’s quite high ground.

I live in SoHo, so you know there’s no power, or anything functioning down there, everybody’s lost power, but other than that no real issues. And that’s the least of our problems right now. “

**Joe Sheftel, of the eponymous Lower East Side gallery, told us early this afternoon, “I just checked out Orchard Street and the gallery. All seemed ok and basement was dry. We had moved most the art from the basement to be safe.  No electricity or cell phones there. As for me, I cooked all day and had a dinner party in Williamsburg after we watched back episodes of Homeland. Nothing too eventful thankfully. It seems we are entering a new environmental phase. Just another thing for young gallerists to worry about. I am glad we are ok as a community.”

**This morning, artist Paul Chan said that during the storm, he got dispatches from people in a distant city who had also once experienced severe flooding. “The most interesting thing I did,” he told us over e-mail, “was field calls and texts asking if I was okay and if I needed help…from New Orleans.” Mr. Chan lived in New Orleans for nine months in 2007 to stage his project Waiting for Godot in New Orleans, an event produced by Creative Time to re-imagine the symbolic play of waiting as a message of renewal for the barren streets and demolished homes of the city. “They know what a hurricane can do to a city and wanted to know if there was anything they can do. Very. Ironic.”

** Kathy Grayson, the art dealer who runs the Hole at Bowery and Bleecker, seemed to be right in the heart of the flooding but stayed inside with an artist friend. “I just went to meet Kembra Pfahler, my neighbor on Ave C and she gave me a bunch of penis candles and we looked at the flooding on Ave D and then went home to read books by our penis candles.” Ms. Pfahler, if you recall, is the artist who also heads up the band the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. (Her last show at the Hole was the Monet-themed “Giverny“).


**Earlier today, painter Natalie Frank—who has a solo show on view at Fredericks & Freiser in Chelsea through Nov. 3—was safely inside, roasting potatoes on East 19th Street. She’d already taken steps to protect her artwork. “I did majorly clear out my studio in Bushwick,” she told us over e-mail. “I’m nervous about that—all [the] drawings in a six-foot-tall flat file.” She was disappointed about another side effect of Sandy. “Bummed Martin Amis was cancelled tonight at the Y,” she wrote.

** MoMA PS1 director and MoMA chief curator at large, Klaus Biesenbach, has had an especially busy storm weekend. After evacuating his place on Rockaway Beach at 86th Street on Sunday, he hosted a Halloween carnival and parade with Courtney Love at PS1. He’s spending the day at his apartment on the Lower East Side, and has moved the planters he has on his balcony into his apartment. “I cannot open the balcony door at the moment,” he said. “The wind is too strong…” Before leaving Rockaway, he made sure to secure his garden, but he’s worried it may get damaged. “I just planted birches on Saturday,” he wrote. “I fear the planting is gone.” He added, “Rockaway is the most most beautiful part of New York (period). Beauty is always at risk…..”

** Painter Deborah Kass just got back from the opening of her solo show at Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum yesterday afternoon with her wife, artist Patricia Cronin. She wrote in an e-mail that she’s “wondering why after the best weekend of my life I have to deal immediately with the storm of the century, shit from the Gowanus floating into my backyard and trees falling on my house!! damn!” She added, “I was too high from the show to worry about the hurricane till about 4 in the morning when I shot out of bed and started taping plastic to the doors and fussing with the basement.” Ms. Cronin has made a pot of soup, and Ms. Kass has moved the car to an open parking lot, far from trees.

** Over in Chelsea, Postmasters gallery co-owner Magdalena Sawon was readying her gallery for the full brunt of the storm. She shares in an e-mail:

“We just lifted vulnerable art from ‘on the floor’ to 3-4 feet up. Moved archives and tools from basement….We are fifty feet outside of zone A (between  9 & 10) so there is some advantage. We are monitoring the surge as to whether to do sandbagging.”

** This morningNancy Reddin Kienholz was at Pace Gallery’s 25th Street space, working with a team of installers to prepare a major show of work that she and her husband made in the 1980s. It’s set to open on Thursday, and they seemed to be making good progress. “We all understand earthquakes in California,” Ms. Kienholz told us. “But we don’t understand hurricanes.”

Stay safe out there, folks.

How Are New York’s Art Types Riding Out Hurricane Sandy? [Updated]