Bill Powers owns Half Gallery in New York

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NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 11: Cynthia Rowley and Bill Powers attend the New York premiere of "Phantom Thread" After Party at Harold Pratt House on December 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Half Gallery is a contemporary art gallery in the East Village. It was established in 2008 by Bill Powers. Founded by art-world Bill Powers, this secluded gallery is dedicated to newly emerging artists.

Social distancing is as normal now as having a drink with friends a few months ago. We all have found ourselves in a new world. And it has caused many galleries to feverishly rethink their program for the next year and wonder how to balance the health and safety of their clients and artists with the demand for the sale of works.

Bill Powers owns Half Gallery in New York
Bill Powers

How did you end up with the same (or similar) personal experience on the Internet, you may ask? Half Gallery in East Village calmly answers this question.

Just after a recent renovation, with floor-to-ceiling windows that adorn the entire corner showcase, the gallery could still technically be on display, despite the gallery’s temporary closure saved for the few who pass by on the street.

Unable to enter a regular store, the gallery created a unique online view for them. The viewing room, accessed via a password from their main website, consists of selected works by the gallery’s eight artists. It’s easy to navigate and provides all the information you might need to buy a work by clicking on an artist’s name and seeing their art on display.

Speaking to owner Bill Powers about this sudden change and adaptation of the Half Gallery, he said that he likes to think of it as a continuation of what people usually see in the gallery office during any exhibition. Some of Vaughn Spann’s works were to be sent to Marfa International, which had been delayed until August. And the work of Ethan Cook and Alex Becerra was heading to the Dallas art fair. But, unfortunately, it had also been delayed until fall 2020. Thus, an online viewing room was created as a collection of all these things.

It is commendable how much gallery owners will go to provide access. Despite these difficult times, Powers and his team found a way to adapt. This exhibition was a collection of works that were going to be exhibited at various fairs.

Rather than not getting the spotlight they deserve, Half Gallery has displayed the work in the viewing room itself. Preparing for the change, they have outstripped the market by preparing them for future digital exhibitions.

Bill Powers owns Half Gallery in New York
Hiejin Yoo, Sunday Best, 39” x 37”, Vinyl and oil on canvas, 2020. Courtesy of Half Gallery

Of course, this is not the same as going to the show in person. Some details are lost in the photograph. The connection you need to feel in order to buy a piece of art may not be as emotional.

When things get tough, you get along. One should support those who rely on him and bring what he can to the community as a whole. Half Gallery does just that, prioritizing transparency and accessibility as the main factors of its success.

Bill Powers curates Under the Glass group exhibition at New Half Gallery Space

Bill Powers owns Half Gallery in New York
“Under Glass” Group Exhibition at Half Gallery

The exhibition, which can be seen from the street, features works by Tom Sachs, Chloe Wise, Richard Prince, and others.

Bill Powers reopened Half Gallery at his new location in the East Village at the end of February on Leap Day. However, the opening did not last long – two weeks later, the COVID-19 crisis meant the early closure of Tanya Merrill Gallery’s first solo exhibition (fortunately, tickets for it were already sold out).

While the space remained closed to the public at this time, Powers felt grateful for a central feature of the East Village corner space that he initially questioned. While many galleries and art fairs in the wake of the coronavirus have turned to online viewing rooms and digital formats, hosting new exhibitions with minimal investment of time, Powers has taken a unique approach to showcase work in these socially isolated times.

Half Gallery hosted a group exhibition, Under the Glass, featuring new and unknown works by artists such as Pauline Shaw, Michael Kagan, Anna Park, Tom Sachs, Ethan Cook, Andrea Joyce Haymer, Ginny Casey, and Chloe Wise.

But works were not only available on the Internet. They actually hung in the gallery and could be seen from the street through the gallery windows.

Bill Powers owns Half Gallery in New York
Outside Half Gallery in New York
Bill Powers owns Half Gallery in New York
“Under Glass” Group Exhibition at Half Gallery

The concept of exhibiting artwork to be viewed from the street is not without priority in New York; ( it is currently a work by John Giorno). While the works included in Under the Glass were conceptually rather than thematic, Powers noted that some of the works did indeed relate to the current moment.

Wise, who lives a few blocks from the gallery, has responded to the pandemic in the past few weeks by painting a picture of a woman taking a handkerchief out of a box with a gloved hand next to an anonymous figure, both in an old master hand pose. Sometimes the connection to the present is more casual, and a change in context can change how certain works are interpreted.

Eva Yushkevich’s portrait of a woman with her face covered with hair (artist’s signature) is compared to protesters in Hong Kong who covered their faces with hair in response to last year’s banning masks. Also familiar are the chaotic home scenes depicted in Hymer’s Dress Sewing and Other Preparations for the 1997 Winter Prom in Black Eagle, Montana.

Bill Powers owns Half Gallery in New York
Installation view of “Under Glass.” Courtesy Half Gallery

Half Gallery entered the Dallas Art Fair via an online viewer and did the same for the Frieze Art Fair in New York in May.

While this is a good decision, Powers sees online viewing rooms as more of a short-term solution and certainly not a substitute for the intuitive sense of the physical presence of the artwork. After flipping through 10, 20, 30 online browsing rooms, it can be difficult to keep up interest.

Powers said that he always envisioned that online lounges would be added value rather than their main entry point. To help bridge the gap in more active experiences, Under the Glass is accompanied by an online audio component; many artists who participated in the show recorded a short clip in which they discussed their work.

Bill Powers owns Half Gallery in New York
Dress Sewing And Other Preparations For Winter Prom 1997 In Black Eagle, Montana
Bill Powers owns Half Gallery in New York
Installed work by Richard Prince and Ethan Cook
Bill Powers owns Half Gallery in New York
Tanya Merrill, Parrot Landing

Art Dealer Bill Powers and Wife Cynthia Rowley Have Sold Off Their Art-Edition Company to Pay off Business Debts

Husband and wife Bill Powers and Cynthia Rowley, an art dealer and fashion designer sold their print company Exhibition A to pay off outstanding debts. In 2019, they turned over the troubled business to Supreme Digital’s commercial printer in Brooklyn.

Powers told Artnet News by email that the sale resulted in zero financial benefits for them personally and was that done to give money back to artists who were owed money for previous projects. The sale comes a few weeks after Exhibit A finally paid off a long-overdue art production company bill, but only after Powers faced pressure from the local New York City news service that haunted him after months of defaults on the account.

After the payment was finalized, Powers’ attorney stated that the dealer and his wife, who founded Exhibit A in 2010, were only minority shareholders in the company, although there are no other investors on the company’s website. Coincidentally, Supreme Digital, and art delivery company OCS are both located in the same Brooklyn building.

Powers also run the Half Gallery in the Upper East, where artists such as Rene Ricard, Natalie Frank, Vaughn Spann, and Ben Blatt have exhibited. Over the years, Exhibit A has produced prints featuring artists Nate Lowman, Josh Smith, Richard Prince, Joe Bradley, and Balls Hughes, among others.

Supreme Digital’s Brendan Carney said in an email to Artnet News that they were thrilled to maintain the superior digital print quality for which Supreme is renowned and present new art titles in a curated selection. Supreme Digital is already working on new prints with Allison Zuckerman and Keith Shepherd. Powers continue to work with the company as a consultant.

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