January 28, 2023

After more than 40 years, the gallery, known for representing artists such as Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo and Sherrie Levine, has announced that it will close in late December.

Metro Pictures Gallery announced on Sunday that it would close in late 2021 in an email citing “a challenging year of pandemic-driven programming and the anticipated arrival of an entirely different art world.”

The decision surprised artists and curators, who saw the gallery’s place in history as incontestable. Metro Pictures was founded in 1980 by gallery owners Helene Winer and Janelle Reiring and has become a launch pad for many members of the Pictures Generation, a loosely connected group of artists connected by their appropriation powers in a media-saturated, politically insecure world.

The gallery helped photographers like Ms. Sherman, Mr. Longo, and Ms. Levine become critical favorites, known for driving a nail through the mythology of modernism that built their artistic ancestors.

“They were the smartest kids on the block,” said Douglas Eklund, who curated the Pictures Generation exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2009 and subsequently cemented the gallery’s place in history. “I have based my whole claim on the belief that what Metro Pictures has achieved is seen as an equal turning point to what Ileana Sonnabend and Leo Castelli have achieved,” two gallery owners known for working with artists like Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons to introduce the world.

And like his colleagues at Metro Pictures, Mr. Eklund is stepping down from a position of power. After more than 26 years, he stepped down from his curatorial role at the Met last week and left with one final exhibition – “Pictures, Revisited” – as a continuation of his 2009 show.

“I felt the need to turn over a new page,” he explained.

It was similar with Metro Pictures, where the gallery’s founders decided after four decades to end it. Not because of declining sales, Ms. Winer said in an interview, but with a feeling that reopening the gallery after the pandemic ended would require more energy than she had to give at the age of 75.

“We just feel like we’ve done our thing,” she added. “At my current age, I don’t think I want to reinvent the wheel.”

The founders had discussed closing the gallery at the start of the pandemic last year, but delayed their decision due to the volatile economic situation in the arts. They had also considered partnering with a younger gallery before finally abandoning the plan as impractical. (Around the same time, retailer Gavin Brown announced that he would be joining Gladstone Gallery as a partner and closing his own business.)

Over the weekend, the founders of Metro Pictures called their artists and staff to announce their decision to close. In a statement on Sunday, the couple said, “We decided to announce this difficult decision well in advance of our graduation in order to give the artists and staff we represent time to pursue other options and allow us to participate in their transitions enable . ”

However, some artists were still surprised by the gallery’s decision to close the store.

“It’s shocking and sad,” said Trevor Paglen in an interview. He joined Metro Pictures about 10 years ago and was eager to be represented by a gallery that had shaped his thinking as a young artist. “I was overjoyed to be part of something that had inspired a large part of my career and my life.”