Wayne White at Bellwether
The Williamsburg scene and mystique is simply demographics,
said Rebecca Smith, owner of Bellwether gallery. The neighborhood
has the highest per capita population of artists in the
world: around 14,000 according to the 2000 Census. "It
is the artist-run-space-community of New York. Artists run
the galleries, so it's not purely commercial. That's why
the art here is more experimental. You will come here and
see people's first time out; not big, established artists."
"My mission is to show young-in-career artists,"
Smith said. "The entire reason for this gallery is
a peer group gesture. Those people are in the same boat
as me. I do for people what I wish people would do for me."
Smith looks for artists that are looking at their careers
as long-term prospects, not overnight sensations. "I
like the tortoise approach versus the hare. I want artists
that really want to develop."
Bellwether shows varied forms of art, but Smith leans towards
work that is visually-oriented; she likes art that is "good
to look at." It should contain beauty and presentation,
while still maintaining an intellectual subplot. She also
likes the presence of humor in art.
Smith sees Bellwether as "scene-making." She
started the gallery to create something akin to an indie
record label for art. "I am creating a context for
myself and my generation here."
Having a gallery allows Smith to "hang out with the
most talented artists in the world," but it also allows
her to "show I care about this artist and think they
are important enough to be shown. It makes me put my money
where my mouth is."
Most of life comes down to money: how to pay the rent,
how to keep food in the refrigerator, how to buy a beer
on a Friday night. However, many see money as a corrupting
influence on art; stealing its integrity and placing it
at the whim of the marketplace. Not Smith.
"The selling force is good. It improves the integrity
of the art; it makes the work better. This is the elite
art world here in New York: the cream will rise to the top;
the great work will get supported. The market is too sophisticated
here to ignore what is good. If an artist is good, they
will find support."
And Smith believes there are good artists in Williamsburg.
However, she thinks there aren't enough good galleries.
Perhaps ten galleries in the neighborhood are good, but
only four or five are don't-miss. "There are galleries
here that are very important to the art world. But there's
not enough for people to warrant coming out here. Not all
galleries are showing good things."
Money is also the downside of owning a gallery for Smith:
she has lost her innocence. She quickly learned about the
economics of the art world and how collectors - who hold
the purse strings - rule the roost. But she also thinks
if a gallery is good enough, it can turn the scenario around.
"I see these collectors circling, waiting, watching
the scene out here. They need to start collecting now. I've
gone way out on a limb for young-in-career artists here.
I have no backer. Everything I have is in this gallery.
So the collectors of young artists need to come out to Williamsburg.
It [the work] is good enough now."
Bellwether is located at 335 Grand Street. It is open
Friday to Monday noon to 6 and by appointment. For more
information, contact the gallery at 718.387.3701 or visit
---by Grant Moser