Seeking an Alternative to Costly International Art Fairs, Emerging Polish Gallery Wschód Places Its Bets on a Pied-a-Terre in New York

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The Warsaw-based gallery Wschód is venturing into New York with an experimental outpost, in a bid to boost exposure for its artists in the global art world capital, while continuing to explore an alternative business model to the constant stream of costly art fairs.

Piotr Drewko, the owner of Wschód, said he is seeking a more efficient use of resources, rather than spending a fortune at art fairs that last for just a few days. “The old ways are not working any more—not for young galleries anyway,” he told Artnet News.

The New York plan, according to Drewko, begins with a one-year lease at a space located on the ground floor of 136 Orchard Street, adjacent to Perrotin’s Lower East Side space. The new space will open on October 20 with the solo presentation of American artist Cudelice Brazelton IV’s new works, including a range of sculptures and mixed media works. The artist, who’s represented by the gallery, has previously exhibited at the gallery’s Warsaw space.

Wschód

Cudelice Brazelton IV, Sign (2023). Courtesy the artist and Wschód.

Solo presentations of artists from the gallery’s roster in the works for New York include American artist Anders Dickson, Polish artist Joanna Woś and Cezary Poniatowski, Canadian artist Adam Shiu-Yang Shaw, and Dutch artist W. Rossen. His rostered program will form an integral part of the gallery’s exhibition program in New York, Drewko noted, adding that he hoped to feature locally-based artists in group shows in order to engage a dialogue with the local New York scene. The gallery will also invite artists to create site-specific interventions for its window displays.

Wschód is no stranger to experimenting with alternative, collaborative gallery operation models since it was founded in 2017. The gallery played a pivotal role in gallery-share initiatives such as Friend of a Friend, which has held editions in Berlin and Warsaw, and Echo, a time-shared exhibition space in Cologne shared by five dealers that launched in January 2022. The gallery also participated in Condo.

“The gallery has to constantly grow, be challenging for both the sake of the systematically growing business but also, most of all, for keeping the artists focused, intrigued,” Drewko said.

W. Rossen <i>Ostend</i> (2023), exhibition view, Wschód, Warsaw.

W. Rossen Ostend (2023), exhibition view, Wschód, Warsaw.

While opening an outpost in New York is costly and the city highly competitive, the gallery has calculated that it would be worthwhile, especially when compared to touring to art fairs, including those in New York. Galleries may spend tens of thousands of dollars on booth rent, shipping, and operational costs—but only have a few days to reap returns.

The gallery has been attending fewer fairs in recent years, focusing mainly on Liste and Frieze London, where Dweko is in on the committee. “You have such limited momentum to do it all—to talk with clients and curators, to sell, and secure a potentially important institutional relationship—not to mention appreciate it all and also have fun,” he said. “If you take that money and open a second location with a pre-prepareed plan, solid ideas, you can get yourself 365 days of possibility of making it all happen. Why not try?” Drewko said.

The lower level of the space will be home to an experimental cinema, and a curated program ranging from podcasts, lectures, and interviews with art world thinkers. Drewko stressed that Wschód’s experimental outpost of the gallery is not a strictly one-year plan.

 

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