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42. Because Our Galleries Are Eight Stories Tall

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At some point during the art boom, our galleries just got bigger and bigger and more museumlike. Sperone Westwater’s Foster + Partners–designed 131-foot-tall corrugated tower on the Bowery, with an enormous red box sliding up and down inside its façade, is the ultimate showpiece of the new economics of art. The 35-year-old gallery, which for years was on the second floor of a space on West 13th Street, shows the sorts of blue-chip shows many lesser cities would dream of having in their nonprofit museums: Carl Andre, On Kawara, Susan Rothenberg, Bruce Nauman. Visitors mistaking the building for a museum often ask if there’s an admission fee. For the exhibition featuring seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Italian paintings opening on January 7, the gallery plans to fill the red box—really a room-size elevator—with paintings and “park” it on the fourth floor, forcing visitors to take the smaller elevator or the stairs. “It wasn’t the most optimistic moment when we decided to go ahead with everything in 2008,” says Angela Westwater of the 20,000-square-foot investment. “But when we opened our original gallery, in 1975, New York was in a fiscal crisis, and it wasn’t such a great moment either. That’s why we kept at it even though people questioned our sanity.”


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