Friday, June 6, 2008

LI Arrest Prompts Manhattan Galleries to Serve—Gasp—Seltzer!

I went to an art opening in Manhattan last night on 25th Street, which is a veritable Gallery Row in Chelsea. The street was hopping with art lovers taking in a number of openings.
Now you can’t always count on the art being good, or even understandable, at these opening night parties, but one thing you can always count on is wine being served. But the rules have changed in NYC. The Memorial Day weekend arrest of Long Island gallery owner Ruth Vered (see related story) has some of the Chelsea galleries shaken up. Vered, an art scene veteran who owns a gallery in East Hampton, refused to stop serving alcohol after the police showed up. She was carted off to headquarters in handcuffs.
An assistant at Lohin Geduld Gallery said Vered’s arrest caused them to serve only seltzer that night. “And it’s not even like we serve anything expensive. It’s, like, $7.00 for a double bottle.” So now we know that even when the galleries pour wine, they’re doing it as cheaply as possible. O.K., that really wasn’t a surprise.
At CUE Art Foundation gallery a few doors down, wine was being served at a book signing party. I asked a gallery worker about the LI arrest and their decision: “Yeah, we heard about it, but we’re pouring wine anyway. Let them come arrest us.” He told me they would probably starting buying permits in the fall.
A one day permit to pour wine at this type of event costs $31. But according to the gallery people I spoke to, it’s more the inconvenience than the cost. “The permit is for only one day. You have to buy a permit every day you want to pour wine.” As one attendee said, “You’d think the police would have better things to do.”

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