Two Smaller Manhattan Art Museums (Chelsea and Folk) Have Big Money Problems

08/10/2010 11:56 AM |

American Folk Art Museum

Appropriately, following a piece in yesterday’s Times comparing the sweet free apartments occupied by directors of NYC’s biggest museums, comes news that two of the city’s smaller non-profit art spaces, the Chelsea Art Museum and the American Folk Art Museum, are in dire financial straits. In Midtown, the Times reports that the AFAM is at an impasse in renegotiating the terms of a $32 million loan it took out to build its new structure next to MoMA on 53rd Street, on which it hasn’t been able to make payments for over six months now.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that in gallery land, Chelsea Art Museum founder and director Dorothea Keeser’s company, which owns the building that houses the CAM on West 22nd, filed for bankruptcy protection. Worse still, due to those foreclosure-forestalling procedures the state has discovered that the museum put its permanent collection up as collateral for a loan to pay its for mortgage, news that means the institution could lose its museum charter, members of its board of trustees may be removed, and it could lose its non-profit status, making it ineligible for many of the grants that help museums stay afloat.

So, all in all, it’s looking like a week of very bad news for the non-commercial art world. And, tellingly, the CAM’s problems are likely largely due to stiff competition from its neighbors, some of the best for-profit contemporary art venues in the world. The AFAM, meanwhile, could use a little help from big brother MoMA next door, which may also be interested in taking over the tiny museum’s spectacular sliver of a building.