Ethan and Cordy Ryman Have a Plan for Creating Affordable Studio Space for Artists: Meet ‘Art Cake’

Founded by Ethan and Cordy Ryman, Art Cake's objective is to provide artists with a space to generate work without the pressures of gallery expectations.

An interior glimpse at Art Cake. Alan Tansey

Within the traditional parameters of a gallery structure, everything hinges on the dealer’s ability to market their artists and an artist’s ability to produce work that garners a lot of interest. These are pressure-cooker circumstances, even with the provisions of ample time that some gallerists bestow upon their creative charges, and things have only gotten more high-stakes lately as decades-old galleries fold up for good and the biggest ones get even bigger. The artists Cordy and Ethan Ryman are attempting to subvert these punishing expectations with Art Cake, an artistic production space that they opened on September 7, 2019 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

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Art Cake is an industrial building that hosts approximately 12 low-cost studios on the top floor, while the bottom floor is meant to serve as a multipurpose event space for anything you could possible imagine (an art exhibition, a lecture, an impromptu play). After the conclusion of a three-month-long inaugural exhibition by the artist Suzanne Bocanegra called Wardrobe Test that’s currently on view, the bottom floor event space will be offered at cost for third-party events so that top floor studios can remain affordable.

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“The ground floor at Art Cake is not a traditional commercial gallery,” Cordy Ryman said. “It is a flexible exhibition and events space, directed and curated by Marina Gluckman. The sole mandate is to generate revenues to subsidize the artist studio program upstairs, the parameters for how this is achieved are flexible. To start, Marina invited Suzanne Bocanegra to inaugurate the space with Wardrobe Test, a solo exhibition featuring three large-scale works that were included in her recent show at the Fabric Workshop & Museum in Philadelphia.”

Suzanne Bocanegra. ‘Lemonade, Roses, Satchel’ (2017). Courtesy of Art Cake

“Traditional galleries presumably are there to sell art,” Ethan Ryman added. “Selling art on a scale that allows survival if not growth in the current environment is a great challenge met with complex relationships and lots of investment. Our model, by nature of being semi-philanthropic, is interested in lowering the stakes for artists. Instead of having the fate of the gallery at stake in every sale, we are leveraging the profit that we make from the exhibitions and events space and channeling it to the artists participating in the Art Cake studio program.”

With a rotating turnover schedule applying to its artists-in-residence, Art Cake will shift out the artists using the studios every one to two years as part of its Art Cake Studio Program in order to foster a diverse community. As the financial demands of contemporary art seem to spiral ever-upward, it’s undeniable that artist-led organizations such as this are going to become even more essential, not to mention popular, among the arts world.

Ethan and Cordy Ryman Have a Plan for Creating Affordable Studio Space for Artists: Meet ‘Art Cake’