Malin Gallery, the contemporary art gallery founded by Barry Thomas Malin in New York in 2015, will close after a difficult year of pressure from “exogenous difficulties”, Malin says. His gallery, formerly known as Burning in Water Gallery, built a reputation for showcasing the work of artists from underrepresented groups. The gallery previously showed work by Jesse Krimes, an artist who focuses on incarceration and criminal justice after serving a multi-year prison sentence (Krimes left the gallery earlier this month to join Jack Shainman). The gallery also held the first New York solo show for renowned sculptor Elizabeth Catlett in 2017.
“I loved the gallery and our artists, and I would be inclined to restructure and proceed if we can,” Malin said in a statement, adding that he still has a long-term lease on the gallery’s space on West 29th Street in Chelsea. “However, we have more pressing concerns at the moment. If it makes sense after our current challenges are resolved, I would like to continue in some capacity.”
The Chelsea gallery began experiencing difficulties last autumn, when Malin’s mother fell ill. Malin—a former physician—took a six-month leave from the gallery to care for her, and his “absence for a prolonged period … destabilised everything and put us into a downward spiral”, he said in a statement. When Malin returned in April, he found there were “more issues” than he was previously aware of, he says.
Malin says he began working with a “turnaround” business consultant to determine how to move forward and continue operations if feasible. In July, he closed the gallery’s Aspen outpost. The Chelsea gallery remains open, Malin says, though there is not a show on for August. As of this writing, the gallery's website is no longer active; no new posts have appeared on its Facebook or Instagram accounts since mid-June.
Last week, Artnews reported that both branches of the Malin Gallery had closed amid allegations that the gallery owed vendors money. Malin denied making the decision to shutter until he learned the publication was planning to run that story.
“We certainly had not officially closed, as plans were underway for a fall show, which we may still mount,” Malin said in a statement. “Given the other headwinds we were facing, I considered the likely reputational damage and fallout, and quickly sent an email out to our artists so they would hopefully hear from me before seeing the article posted online.”
Artnews reported that Malin owed money to artists and vendors, including a shipper and a caterer, citing an anonymous former employee. One artist told the publication they are owed more than $9,000 by the gallery, and claimed their attempts to be paid over the last three months have been unsuccessful, including a wire transfer that did not go through and a bounced check. Malin told Artnews that the wire transfer issue was caused by a possible fraud notice, and that he did not remember dealing with a bounced check.
While some payments have been delayed, the gallery is not discharging any debts and all parties will be paid in full, Malin says. Outstanding payments to gallery artists should be completed within a week, he added.
One artist who spoke to The Art Newspaper on the condition of anonymity said the gallery owes them for a $20,000 work that sold last year. Malin paid back a small part of the balance last week, with promises to pay the rest, they said. The artist believes the oversight was not on purpose and took place when Malin was on leave. Another artist said they were paid for their work and had unsold pieces returned to them.
“He should stay in the art world and continue to deal. I think he’s a great influence,” another artist who showed with the gallery tells The Art Newspaper. “There’s been a net positive, although I’m sure that not everything went perfectly.”