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McKee Gallery closes after 41 years in New York

Founders say the art world has become a stressful, unhealthy place

After 41 years in business, the McKee Gallery will close its doors on 31 August. David McKee and Renee Conforte McKee, the founders and co-directors of the gallery have decided not to renew their current lease at 5th Avenue in New York’s Midtown.

“The art market has grown so vast that our gallery model is in danger: the collector’s private experience with art matters much less, as the social circus of art fairs, auctions, dinners and spectacle grows,” they wrote in a statement.

“The value of art is now perceived as its monetary value. The art world has become a stressful, unhealthy place; its focus on fashion, brands and economics robs it of the great art experience, of connoisseurship and of trust,” they wrote.

The gallery opened in 1974 with an exhibition in a former beauty salon at the Barbizon Hotel for Women on Lexington Avenue and 63rd street, showing figurative paintings by Philip Guston. “We have never compromised our belief in showing artists who had a powerful sense of their own identities beyond the influence of movements or the marketplace,” the McKees say.

The gallery represents artists including Vija Celmins, Richard Learoyd and Daisy Youngblood and works with artists’ estates including those of Philip Guston and Harvey Quaytman. “Where needed, we will help our artists find new galleries and make the transition as smooth as possible. We will assist in bringing current projects to completion, including monographs, commissions, sales and museum exhibitions,” they say.

“We have had a very happy and fascinating life in the art world. We are immensely grateful to all who have supported us throughout the 41 years—the museum curators, collectors, artists, our staff and a dedicated, intelligent public that endlessly visits without hope of ever owning something. Through economic ups and downs, we dedicated our gallery to long-term commitments to artists and imparting knowledge about them to collectors. That was the fun of it.”