Monday April 29, 2024 | by Andrew Page

Amidst a wave of New York gallery closures, Douglas Heller will turn the lights off for good at his Tenth Avenue exhibition space to focus on online sales and art fairs

On the last day of May 2024, soon after the close of the Matthew Day Perez solo show "Accumulation" now on view, the lights will go off at the 10th Avenue gallery space that has been home to Heller Gallery since 2013. Doug Heller, who, over the past half-century has moved Heller Gallery from its origins on the Upper East Side to Soho, the Meat Packing District, and Chelsea, says the time has come to go virtual. Though the gallery's year-round exhibition space will close, he plans to continue representing artists through appearances at art fairs, online sales, private viewings, and pop-up exhibitions.

"While the gallery will no longer have a brick-and-mortar home for the moment, it will maintain an online presence and foresees doing strategic pop-up events in the future," reads an announcement the gallery allowed the Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet to preview before it is made public. The pandemic forced galleries to develop online strategies, and the post-pandemic rental market in Manhattan has seen record-setting rents in both residential and commercial spaces. New York City has been seeing multiple contemporary art galleries closing their brick-and-mortar venues, including the venerable Marlborough Galleries recent announcement that they would be closing their flagship Manhattan location in June.

An April 25th Hyperallergic article with the headline "What's Behind the Recent Wave of New York Gallery Closures" cited economic challenges, technological opportunities, and lingering pandemic woes for a spate of prominent gallery closures in 2023 and 2024.

In Heller's case, the doors will close at the end of a one-year lease extension and an anticipated steep increase in rent. Heller signed a 10-year lease for the space on 10th Avenue between 27th and 28th streets in 2013. "Our original ten-year lease expired on June 1st," Doug Heller told Glass Quarterly. "In retrospect, I think a more practical and profit-motivated gallery would have closed a year ago."

When the doors close on May 31st, Heller may lose its dedicated exhibition venue in Manhattan after a run of more than half a century, but the dealer has no plans to stop representing artists working in glass. Instead, the gallery's polished expertise in online retailing, both through the Website and through email communications, will continue, becoming the primary vehicles to drive sales. In addition, Heller is planning pop-up exhibitions and appearances at art fairs. He is encouraging people to keep an eye on the website for the latest developments. 

The Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet asked Doug Heller about why he didn't simply move to a more affordable location, as he had done over the years, relocating from the Upper East Side to Soho, the Meat Packing District, and then Chelsea. 

A 2023 photo of Doug Heller in his Tenth Avenue gallery.

"We considered relocating and viewed a good number of spaces over the last six months," Heller replied. "One thing the search process revealed was how many other NYC galleries have closed their physical spaces. The more spaces we viewed, the less it seemed as if simply relocating was the proper response to the market challenges of today's art and glass world.  We believe that a combination of a virtual presence, pop-ups, collaborations with other institutions and art fairs — a hybrid model of sorts -- may best serve our artists, clients and us."

Asked whether he had noted any successful examples of other glass dealers who have left behind the bricks-and-mortar gallery for some type of hybrid online such as the one he is planning, Heller asserted that they were setting their own course and not imitating anyone else. 

"We have never knowingly followed the business models of others," Heller responded. "As you are well aware, during the pandemic shutdown every gallery that wanted to remain active had to switch to a virtual model -- and that included art fairs as well.  We are also aware that a good number of years ago, Ken Holsten sold his Stockbridge, Massachusetts gallery to Kim and Jim Schantz, and opened up an online virtual gallery that he still operates out of Santa Fe. His successors took over Ken’s original space and successfully operated a brick-and-mortar model for a long time but they, too, closed their physical gallery’s doors last year and have gone virtual. Ferrin Contemporary closed their space last year, but have been curating and traveling exhibitions to museums and organizing their artists' participation in group exhibitions in commercial galleries as well as public/non-profit spaces & museums."

In the past decade, Heller has made a notable effort to diversify and expand the audience for glass art, and also limited-edition glass design. Glass asked Heller how he assessed the gallery's impact in broadening the collecting community for work in glass.

"We have been very successful in opening the doors of many museums to artists working with glass over the past 51 years, and also successfully cultivated private collectors in the U.S. and around the globe," Heller said.

Asked about a specific art fair where we might expect to see Heller Gallery, Heller shared that he has applied to the 2025 Winter Show, an important art, antiques, and design fair that will be held at New York City's Park Avenue Armory in January.

When he moved from the Meat Packing District to Chelsea in 2013, the Hot Sheet spoke at length with Heller about the importance of a retail gallery space, and he cited the importance of having a place for people to discover glass in New York City. Asked about his comment a decade ago, he didn't contradict his younger self's assertion.

Gallerist Doug Heller pictured at a 2023 museum art opening.

"I still believe in the firsthand  physical encounter paradigm," Heller responded. "But a static location with a large overhead doesn’t seem the right model at this time. Even now, on a daily basis, our Chelsea gallery welcomes a steady stream of visitors. However, they are mostly students, visitors, and tourists, who are often asking if we are charging admission and only rarely the collectors, curators, and the public who actually support the gallery and our artists. While we have always put passion over profit, we are not a museum or a non-profit organization being underwritten by contributed income. And, last but not least, a sizable segment of the primary market has also been compromised by a soft/weak secondary market, and that has negatively affected the delicate balance on which we have operated (establishing a market for an artist helped eventually support our ability to take on new emerging artists and build a market for them, until their sales were able to support the next generation). We have always been family-owned and self-supporting."

In the end. it seems the economics of New York City real estate have finally reached a point where the art gallery business is becoming increasingly difficult, as noted earlier in the many galleries closing up shop besides Heller. And, indeed, Heller concurs. 

"The cost of operating a brick and mortar space in NYC is extraordinary compared to most other places in the United States, and is now again exceeding pre-pandemic levels."

In addition, the impact of technology, so profoundly changed by the pandemic lock downs and extended shift to virtual seems to have made the art collecting public more comfortable to buy online and from dealers in other countries. In fact, many of Heller's sales have not only been outside of New York City, they've been outside the U.S.

"The glass world's buying habits have changed," Heller shared. "Many of the sales we make these days are to a community that is very widespread and engages with us primarily online. Over the past year we have made significant sales to collectors in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Israel, Switzerland, and Germany. None of these clients have ever set foot in our physical gallery."

To keep up with Heller Gallery's activities after the doors at 303 Tenth Avenue are locked on May 31st, visit the gallery at

Glass: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for more than 40 years.