Earlier this month, art advisor Lisa Schiff abruptly closed her New York gallery space less than a week after being hit with a high-profile “Ponzi scheme” lawsuit. The move left more questions than answers.
That was especially true for photographer Richelle Rich, who was set to open an exhibition at Schiff’s SFA Advisory space on June 7.
“I’m sad to say that unexpectedly the gallery has closed,” Rich wrote on Instagram at the time. “We will no doubt learn the whole story as things play out in the press, but for now I am left pretty devastated.”
But Rich, who considers herself a “political, conceptual artist,” was determined for the exhibition to go on. “I just didn’t want her story to define mine,” she told Artnet News over the phone. “I just wanted to move forward.”
Move forward she did. The artist will open her show in early June as intended, though it will look a little different—and it won’t have anything to do with Schiff. Instead, it will take place for one night only on the seventh floor of a walk-up in New York’s Lower East Side neighborhood.
Rich won’t show the prints she had planned for SFA, but rather a film that comprises some 200 pictures from the same body of work. The series, called “Comeflor,” features shots of flowers, fruits, and other quotidian objects that, for her, symbolize larger ideas and moments in time.
“Through them I document the social, political and historical events I witness,” she wrote of her subjects in an announcement for the revised show. “Deadly poisonous flowers, glass from a shipwreck, custom made needles, ephemera, and detritus make these interwoven narratives tangible. They are secrets hidden in plain sight.”
Rich was introduced to Schiff through a mutual acquaintance. “Lisa was only ever really supportive of me and my work,” she said of their relationship.
The artist heard news of SFA’s closure from Schiff herself the morning of May 15. “It was really shocking,” she recalled, noting the five months’ worth of work she had put into preparing for the show, which was to be her first solo exhibition in American and first show of any kind in New York.
“This was such an enormous deal for me,” she went on, adding that it was supposed to be a “comeback show.”
But after an hour of sulking, Rich got back to work. Within about a week’s time, she lined up a space on Eldridge Street—a studio used by a film editing company. When asked how she was able to secure it on such short notice, the artist laughed, then said, simply: “Begging.”
Reflecting on the last two weeks, after having a show canceled then re-confirmed, Rich took a step back and considered the experience within the context of her now 30-year-long art practice. “It was just another challenge,” she said.
“Here’s One I Made Earlier“ is the name of the artist’s show, which has been given a new title for the new space. It’s set to open on June 7.