Latest in the growing list of commercial victims of the virus, Last Rites Gallery in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen has just announced that it is closing down after a twenty-year run of selling macabre and dark art to a devoted audience of connoisseurs. Owner Paul Booth hopes to reopen in a year or two. His last show was “All of me is Illustrated,” a collection of photographs of tattooed people used in a new edition of the brilliant Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man.” and “The Illustrated Woman.”
Many of us who watch the art world with more than casual interest expected that the covid virus would bring catastrophe to our domain. I am skeptical both of excessive claims that it will somehow be magically transformed into a new and perfected world, and of apocalyptic prognostications of the end of art, with mass closures of museums across the world.
The biggest art galleries possess assets worth incredible fortunes, and boards of directors with wealth so great that they have not flinched in their acquisitions of expensive works of art at auction. I see no reason to expect Covid to make any long-lasting, serious impact upon them.
It’s the workers and the middle class and the smaller, independent galleries like Last Rites who will suffer the worst of the crisis, not the aristocrats of the American art world.
Rest in Peace, Last Rites. Gone but not forgotten.