A fire tore through a second-floor storage space of Paula Cooper Gallery at 521 West 21st Street in Chelsea just before noon on Tuesday, multiple sources told Artsy. The New York Post reported that it was a one-alarm blaze and fire trucks arrived quickly to contain it, but the extent to which the galleries and artworks were damaged is not yet known. In addition to Paula Cooper, neighboring galleries including Tina Kim and Tanya Bonakdar were open for business, and the Post reports that “following the inferno, people could be seen moving out wet boxes from the building and other items like chairs wrapped in plastic.”
A representative for the gallery Sikkema Jenkins, which occupies a space in the same building with an entrance on 22nd Street, said in an email to Artsy that “the fire was in Paula Cooper’s storage space. As for us, we had smoke in the gallery, but all staff and artwork is safe.” Another source who works in a gallery in the building also confirmed that the fire began in Paula Cooper’s storage space.
A representative who answered the phone at Tanya Bonakdar said “everything’s fine,” but declined to comment further. Calls and emails to Paula Cooper were not returned.
The Post spoke with an employee at Paula Cooper, who said: “This is a very emotional time. We’re still trying to figure things out.” The worker did not say whether the fire in the storage space damaged any artwork.
When the Post called Kravets Wehby Gallery, which also has a space in the building, a woman said, “Our gallery is fine. I can’t say it for the other ones, but we’re okay.”
On Tuesday evening, Paula Cooper Gallery released a statement reading:
We write to address the reports of this morning's fire in our second floor gallery at 521 W 21st Street. Thankfully no persons were hurt in the incident. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the New York City Fire Department as well as to our neighboring galleries on 21st Street and 22nd Street for their swift actions. We appreciate your patience and understanding while we work to address the situation.
On Tuesday evening, Tanya Bonakdar responded to Artsy’s inquiry about the fire. “The situation was handled swiftly and remained under control," Bonakdar said. “We are very fortunate to have only sustained minor cosmetic damage to the gallery and plan to reopen next week.”
On Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson for Tina Kim Gallery responded to Artsy’s inquiries about the fire. “Our support goes to Paula Cooper and Tanya Bonakdar during this time, and we are thankful that everyone is safe,” a statement from the gallery said. “The gallery will be closed until further notice, and we will announce our reopening as soon as this information becomes available. Thank you for your patience during this time.”