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38 Walker Street exterior

Preparing for our move has given us reason to look back through our archives at the gallery’s many decades in New York.

In the fall of 1959, Allan Frumkin made the decision to open a second outpost in New York, following on the growing success of the gallery he had established seven years earlier in Chicago. Recognizing that New York City was fast becoming the nexus of the art market, he opened a small space at 32 East 57th Street, amidst the growing midtown arts community. Correspondence between the new gallery and the Chicago location indicate the first years were as exciting as they were financially tenuous despite exhibitions of emerging artists such as Leon Golub (who debuted the space) and established masters such as James Ensor. This biforcated program - a mixing of young Americans, including Robert Barnes, Jack Beal, James McGarrell, Philip Pearlstein, Peter Saul and HC Westermann, with 19th and early 20th Century European masters such as Beckmann, Matisse, Ensor and Lovis Corinth – became a trademark of the gallery and its success led to the gallery’s relocation after five years to a larger space across 57th street, to the 3rd floor of the Fuller Building – then the virtual nexus of the New York art world. Built in 1929, it was uniquely designed with higher ceilings on the lower floors, a feature that, alongside its proximity to the newly founded Museum of Modern Art, attracted both established and up-and-coming galleries and, by the 1960s, it had become the area’s main gallery building.

However by 1975, needing even bigger quarters to accommodate large-scale paintings being produced by an expanded roster, the gallery moved again, this time across Fifth Avenue to the second floor of 50 West 57th Street into a space formerly occupied by the Howard Wise Gallery. Fittingly, to capitalize on its more spacious home, the first exhibition to be mounted in the new space was of Peter Saul’s newly completed history paintings, all measuring in at around fourteen feet apiece. This was to be the gallery’s home for the next twenty years, through its evolution into the Frumkin/Adams Gallery in 1988 and the George Adams Gallery in 1995.

 

In 1996, a year after Frumkin’s retirement, the gallery again moved across 57th street, this time to 41 West and into the space formerly occupied by the Tibor de Nagy Gallery. Opening the new space was an exhibition of new paintings by the young Puerto Rican artist Arnaldo Roche-Rabell, an indication of the changing focus of the gallery’s program. Yet after more than forty-five years on 57th Street, in 2005 the gallery relocated once more into its first designed and built space at 525 West 26th Street in Chelsea. Designed by Murdoch Young, the location placed the gallery among former uptown neighbors James Cohan, Max Davidson, Lelong and Mary Ryan and in the midst of an increasingly prominent contemporary art destination.

 

Now, after fifteen years on 26th street, the gallery will move once more, this time to 38 Walker Street in Tribeca  and for the first time in its history into a ground floor space, finding itself again among longtime neighbors James Cohan and Alexander & Bonin. In just the past few years, Tribeca has seen a growing number of galleries move in, reclaiming what was originally a center of commerce when the neighborhood was developed into its current incarnation, in the late 19th century. The Italianate facades of many of the townhouses was meant to mimic the grand style of the newly conceived department stores appearing in Europe and New York at the time and the specific design was intended to house trade - for the most part textiles - on the ground floor as showroom and retail spaces.

Image and text

Looking S.W. from 73 East 57th Street at 36 East 57th Street, 32 East is clearly visible as the tallest building on the block, March 24, 1950.
Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) / Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.13423.

Preparing for our move has given us reason to look back through our archives at the gallery’s many decades in New York.

 

In the fall of 1959, Allan Frumkin made the decision to open a second outpost in New York, following on the growing success of the gallery he had established seven years earlier in Chicago. Recognizing that New York City was fast becoming the nexus of the art market, he opened a small space at 32 East 57th Street, amidst the growing midtown arts community. Correspondence between the new gallery and the Chicago location indicate the first years were as exciting as they were financially tenuous despite exhibitions of emerging artists such as Leon Golub (who debuted the space) and established masters such as James Ensor. This bifurcated program - a mixing of young Americans, including Robert Barnes, Jack Beal, James McGarrell, Philip Pearlstein, Peter Saul and HC Westermann, with 19th and early 20th Century European masters such as Beckmann, Matisse, Ensor and Lovis Corinth – became a trademark of the gallery and its success led to the gallery’s relocation after five years to a larger space across 57th street, to the 3rd floor of the Fuller Building – then the virtual hub of the New York art world. Built in 1929, it was uniquely designed with higher ceilings on the lower floors, a feature that, alongside its proximity to the newly founded Museum of Modern Art, attracted both established and up-and-coming galleries; by the 1960s it had become the neighborhood’s main gallery building.

Image and text

A group of Fifty-seventh Street gallery owners and directors gathered at the corner of Fifty-seventh and Madison Avenue, Spring 1981.

© 1981 Brownie Harris/Photoreporters

However by 1975, needing even bigger quarters to accommodate the large-scale paintings being produced by an expanded roster of artists, the gallery moved again, this time across Fifth Avenue to the second floor of 50 West 57th Street into a space formerly occupied by the Howard Wise Gallery. Fittingly, to capitalize on its more spacious home, the first exhibition to be mounted in the new space was of Peter Saul’s newly completed history paintings, all measuring in at around fourteen feet apiece. This was to be the gallery’s home for the next twenty years, through its evolution into the Frumkin/Adams Gallery in 1988 and the George Adams Gallery in 1995. 

In 1996, a year after Frumkin’s retirement, the gallery again moved across 57th street, this time to 41 West and into the space formerly occupied by the Tibor de Nagy Gallery. Opening the new location was an exhibition of new paintings by the young Puerto Rican artist Arnaldo Roche-Rabell, an indication of the changing focus of the gallery’s program. Yet after more than forty-five years on 57th Street, in 2005 the gallery relocated once more into its first designed and built space at 525 West 26th Street in Chelsea. Originally built in 1905, the building was the first of four on the block erected by Harris H. Ursis Iron Works - a firm involved with commercial and residential projects throughout Manhattan. The gallery’s new home on the first floor originally housed the drafting rooms and offices, and, in the renovations designed by Murdoch Young, details such as the exposed wood beams were a nod to the building’s history. Its new location placed the gallery among former uptown neighbors James Cohan, Maxwell Davidson, Galerie Lelong, Robert Miller, Pace Prints and Mary Ryan and in the midst of an increasingly prominent contemporary art destination.

 

38 Walker Street exterior

Exterior view of 38 Walker Street, New York, 2021.

Now, after fifteen years on 26th street, the gallery will move once more, this time to 38 Walker Street in Tribeca and for the first time in its history into a ground floor space, finding itself again among longtime neighbors James Cohan and Alexander & Bonin. In just the past few years, Tribeca has seen a growing number of galleries move in, reclaiming what was originally a center of commerce in the late 19th century. Walker Street is named for the revolutionary war soldier, politician and merchant Benjamin Walker - fittingly so as much of the street was dedicated to trade and at one time was the route of a crosstown street railway. By the 1850s, the growth in the volume of trade through the city’s ports resulted in a building boom, with the area in particular becoming home to the dry goods trade. The Italianate facades of many of the new townhouses was meant to mimic the grand style of the newly conceived department stores appearing in Europe and New York at the time, while the specific design was intended to house trade - for the most part textiles. 38 Walker shares this history: it was built in 1858 with the ground floor a showroom and a cast-iron façade fabricated by D.D. Badger & Co, an iron works located on Duane Street. Early tenants were mainly dry goods merchants, however the ground floor was briefly used as a piano showroom by Steinway & Sons around 1860 and during the depression, was a luncheonette. We look forward to being party to the next evolution of the neighborhood's history.