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Curator’s Office, one of D.C.’s premiere contemporary art galleries, is leaving 14th Street NW for a destination to be determined. Andrea Pollan, the art dealer and curator who has maintained Curator’s Office for nine years at 1515 14th St. NW, says that her lease ends in June.
Pollan says a real estate services firm is taking over the building’s entire second floor. When contacted, the firm redirected questions to Giorgio Furioso, the building’s owner. Furioso did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Curator’s Office was one of several art galleries that marked the shift of the city’s arts and cultural loci from Georgetown and Dupont Circle to 14th Street and Logan Circle nearly a decade ago. Pollan opened her gallery at 1515 14th Street in 2004, as did George Hemphill (Hemphill Fine Arts) and Annie Gawlak (G Fine Art).
Now, the center of gravity for D.C.’s art scene appears to be shifting again. The art nonprofit Transformer is still there, as is Contemporary Wing. But Fusebox, the gallery that was the first to transform one of the former auto show floors along 14th Street into a white-cube commercial gallery, is long gone—as is Irvine Contemporary Art, the gallery that replaced it.
In the wake of the art galleries that inaugurated the transformation of a once-vacant 14th Street commercial corridor are small-plates restaurants such as Estadio and luxury-furniture retailers such as Room & Board.
“It’s become restaurant row,” Pollan says. “The energy of eight years ago has transferred and fractured a bit.”
G Fine Art’s Gawlak left the 1515 14th Street NW building in 2009, after Furioso, an arts booster and real-estate developer, was forced to raise the gallery’s rent, which he had subsidized since opening the building. Gawlak has since reopened G Fine Art in Trinidad in Northeast.
“I went out and literally lured them to the space,” Furioso told me back in 2009. “[George] Hemphill from Georgetown, David [Adamson] from 7th Street, Annie from Georgetown. Andrea [Pollan] didn’t have a space at that time.”
Two galleries still remain at 1515 14th Street: Hemphill Fine Arts, which occupies the third floor, and Adamson Gallery, another gallery on the second floor. “Our plan is to stay,” Hemphill says. Laurie Adamson at Adamson Gallery declined to comment.
Pollan says that she is considering spaces across D.C., from Dupont Circle and Georgetown—where Margaret Heiner opened Heiner Contemporary in 2011—to Georgia and New York avenues.
Another option is Trinidad, where Connersmith (née Conner Contemporary Art) relocated from Dupont Circle in 2008. G Fine Art shares the same 1300 block of Florida Avenue NE as Connersmith, as does Craig Appelbaum‘s Industry Gallery and Open Studio D.C.
Three existing commercial art galleries and several vacant storefront spaces would seem to give Trinidad the edge as the place with “critical mass” that Pollan says she hopes to find. Yet Pollan says that the rent and build-out costs to move to Trinidad may be too high. She isn’t ruling out any location, except her present one. Renewing her lease is not an option.
In the meantime, Pollan has been invited to participate in London’s Moving Image video-art fair, where she plans to show works by Cliff Evans and Jonathan Monaghan. She assumes she will return to Pulse Miami during Art Basel Miami Beach in December.
Increasingly, that’s the business model for art galleries: Showing and selling at an international circuit of art fairs, while struggling to keep a brick-and-mortar presence at home.
Photo by Ally Schweitzer