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DeathWatch Stalks Galleries

Virtual Schadenfreude.


As if art dealers weren’t upset enough about falling prices, now there’s short-selling of galleries. Last fall, the How’s My Dealing? blog (which rates gallerists’ treatment of their artists according to anonymous informants) began a gallery “DeathWatch” thread—and dealers are on edge over its retailing of unsubstantiated rumors. “Everything about it is ghoulish,” says Edward Winkleman (whose Chelsea gallery has not been mentioned), adding that posting the name of a troubled gallery could contribute to “accelerating” its demise. The blogger, an artist who calls himself Buck Naked, says that he allows most posts (guided by what the site terms “my sense of the commenter’s sincerity”). But he claims the operation’s been “fairly predictive.” Two galleries put on DeathWatch in October have closed: Plane Space and Roebling Hall. (Three weeks ago, Roebling dealer Joel Beck e-mailed his artists saying his debts “cannot yet be addressed … probably for some time.”) Yet one gallery was listed as “R.I.P.” only to have that designation reversed. DeathWatch is fueled “by bitterness and revenge, but I check it almost every day,” says a Chelsea dealer, who suspects some artists post because they haven’t been paid for sales. “A lot of galleries are on the edge—I worry what’s getting them through is that they’re spending the artists’ money.”

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