Galleries in the time of Coronavirus, going virtual and facing future challenges

Artblog contributor Michael Lieberman reached out to a selection of Philadelphia galleries and collectives to check in during Coronavirus. The list of 20 includes everywhere from Automat Collective to Wexler Gallery, but there are so many more out there-- we extend our support and well wishes to all of Philly's art orgs during this time! Make sure you scroll down to the bottom for a selection of photos from the galleries.

Open book with pictures of parties
The Print Center: William Earle Williams, “Party Pictures” 2020. Images courtesy of The Print Center

In the middle of April, I reached out to many Philadelphia galleries and asked them to provide me with a short statement of how they were responding to the pandemic. The responses I received, together with images provided by most of the galleries, are excerpted below. Some of the information provided may be dated by this time, but updates can be obtained on most of the gallery websites.

I think it’s fair to say that practically all art galleries in the country, and perhaps in the world, were facing major challenges prior to the pandemic. Now, of course, they are facing challenges to their very survival.

[ED. Note: Photos included at the bottom of the post.]


Paradigm Gallery + Studio

It’s been a whirlwind adapting to what was an almost-overnight major change to running the business. I’m proud of how all of our efforts have been put into stepping up to the challenge, instead of giving way to the creeping feelings of defeat. Admittedly, the timing wasn’t great, as we were already exhausted after opening our 10th anniversary exhibition and also just had arrived back from showing at a fair during Armory Week in New York. . . . None of this has been easy and there have been a lot of ups and downs. I honestly expected the worst, but thankfully we’ve been able to keep the business going through new initiatives like our Insider Picks, a series of guest-curated benefit exhibitions that bring awareness to other Philadelphia small businesses and charities. A brand new exhibit launches every Tuesday at 3PM EDT on our site. Since we don’t have the restrictions of time or space anymore, we’ve really been able to get creative. But like so many other businesses, the numbers certainly aren’t anywhere near where they should be, so all year we’ll be strategizing on how to recover from this financial hit. Our biggest concern for the future is about what this means for opening exhibit receptions, even when we are allowed to be open. It likely won’t be safe to have openings in the same way, so we’re already planning for what our next in-person event will look like. Our top priority is keeping our Paradigm community safe and healthy.


During this time, InLiquid is continuing its mission to connect the public with great local and regional artists. Check out our virtual programming; live artist talks and interviews, weekly blog posts and virtual studio visits, and online exhibitions exploring art as a way to cope. While you’re at home, share with us your story behind the art and objects you collect in our Everyone is a Collector series We would love to hear about the art that makes your house a home!

Automat Collective

April 2020 marks the 5th anniversary of AUTOMAT. Since 2015 we have been home to 20 artist members, organized 46 exhibitions that showcased over 150 artists from Philadelphia and beyond and have made many lasting friendships. In March, we were gearing up to celebrate our birthday with fundraising events in our space located at 319 N. 11th Street. When COVID struck Philly, we had to postpone our celebrations and pause our exhibition schedule until an indefinite future date.


We’re fortunate to have a team who understands that maintaining our collective and commitment to the arts community is imperative even during this difficult time. We are actively staying connected and meeting through video conferencing, researching possibilities to move exhibition components online, continuing our plan to host our annual juried exhibition, applying to grants for COVID-19 relief, and are open to what future possibilities may bring. Our thoughts are with our neighbors in the 319 building and the artists in the Philadelphia community. Though this is a difficult time, we have always been stronger together as an artistic community of support.

In these five years, our gallery has survived a building-wide fire, financial difficulties, and other unexpected hardships – we’re proud of our artist-run collective and we have every intention to continue serving as an artistic, cultural, and social resource to the Philadelphia community. We miss our visitors but we’ll see you online and back in the space when possible.


The pandemic came at a strange time for us, as we were gearing up to move on April 1st, so our program was already on hold, and our move has now been delayed for two months. So much of our business is conducted online that we’ve been able to carry on to an extent. The inaugural show in our new space was meant to be our summer show, and this will now likely—hopefully—be our fall show, at our new space at 915 Spring Garden. This is assuming we can invite people in come fall. I doubt that crowded opening receptions will be appealing to anyone for some time, if we’re even allowed to host them. In the meantime we’ll be presenting a selection of works by Philadelphia-area artists online that might elicit different responses today than they did three months ago. Nearly all of the works were made before the pandemic, but we’re seeing them with new eyes.


Wexler Gallery

Upon the arrival of COVID-19, Wexler Gallery immediately became almost entirely digital. We are creating exhibitions that exist solely online and are making use of a variety of platforms and media to share videos, photos, and written statements about the artists, their art, and their process. Curating an online exhibition creates new opportunities to showcase art that would not ordinarily be shown together. For instance, our current exhibition, Wild Nature, presents work that is making use of cutting edge technology alongside art produced during the Studio Craft Movement. Although seemingly at odds in terms of material, time, and location, the work shares a sensibility and reverence for the natural world. The digital presentation allows the viewer to consider each object with the same regard, creating an equality that would not necessarily occur if the objects were seen in the same physical space.

One of the best parts of working in the arts is the network and connection to community. In these times, we are supported by collectors who value the arts. In that same spirit, we are extending support to our local community. With every purchase of a work from Roberto Lugo’s “To Disarm” series, Wexler Gallery is making a donation to the Temple University Hospital Emergency Fund. Serving the neighborhood where Lugo was raised, Temple University Hospital is on the front lines of the pandemic, caring for the population most affected in Philadelphia. The Emergency Fund supports the hospital in its immediate ability to respond to the COVID-19 emergency.

Art is meant to be seen in person, to be lived with, and to be shared and valued as a community. While we are making the most of the new possibilities our current challenges have presented, we are looking forward to the day when we can safely re-open our doors and enjoy art together again.

Vox Populi

As a collectively-run art space, the work we do at Vox Populi is accomplished through the collaborative, accumulated efforts of 24 working-artists in Philadelphia. The Vox Populi collective is meeting regularly over Zoom to process our new realities, support one another, share resources, and to slowly begin brainstorming how we might adjust or revise our many exhibitions and programs in response to the pandemic. Our first orders of business were to reach out to all the artists who were slated to exhibit, curate, or perform at Vox Populi since the beginning of the shut-down, letting them know we intend to honor our commitments in the future and assisting them with their applications to various financial relief programs. We’ve also taken steps to ensure the financial stability of our organization during this time, including applying (successfully!) to the Payroll Protection Program and meeting with our Board of Directors to discuss new and appropriate ways to fundraise.

We’ve had to make tough choices, like cancelling our annual summer juried exhibition (refunding all application fees) and suspending work on events, fellowships, and fundraisers that were all set to launch this season. This is in addition to the necessary time we’ve all taken to process the shock of the situation, sort out all of our various work/life situations, grieve, rest, and – with hope – begin to feel creative impulses once more.

Soon, we will be announcing new, online-based open call opportunities (including a new format for our summer juried show), a handful of virtual and interactive programs, and will be adding more features to our website. We hope to build a media archive of past performance or video-based work at Vox Populi and expand our artist section, including more information about our vast alumni network. We hope these efforts keep audiences connected to our organization and remind the public of the vital space we maintain for Philadelphia artists.

Gross McCleaf Gallery

Fifty years in the business and we have never been faced with something like this! Working from home – answering emails, posting images, returning calls – is no substitute for giving our clients the experience of seeing artwork in person. Fortunately, Kurt Moyer’s March exhibit had opened before the shut-down. His work will remain with Gross McCleaf so that those who didn’t get in will still have an opportunity to see his paintings. We are hoping to have Ted Walsh’s show “Connotations” in June – Walsh was scheduled for April – even if the gallery is open by appointment only. In the meantime, collectors can enjoy seeing Walsh’s virtual show on our website. This is difficult for all, but perhaps this period of time without access to art will spark a renewed appreciation for what we usually take for granted.

Cerulean Arts

While our exhibitions can’t be seen in person, we have the shows as well as work by all of our artists posted and available for sale on our website. We continue to remain in contact with our supporters via email and social media. It’s difficult to plan without a reopen date yet, but we will be adjusting our schedule so that none of the exhibitions are cancelled. This has definitely been the most challenging time during our 14 years, but we are committed to our artists and determined to make it through.

Our current exhibition, “Hinterlands,” features work by Margo Tassi and Thomas Porett. The collective galleries currently have solo exhibitions by Kassem Amoudi, Ronnie Bookbinder, Fran Gallun, Charles Kalick and Kathleen McSherry in addition to the group exhibition of all collective members.

Locks Gallery

Our current exhibition is installing Jennifer Bartlett’s major work, Sea Wall (1985), at Locks Gallery for the first time in fifteen years.

Stretching over 35 feet with three separate canvases and an installation of more than a dozen sculptural objects, Sea Wall (1985) remains an essential part of the New Image movement of the 1980s that heralded a return to subject and imagery in contemporary painting—a movement in which Jennifer Bartlett was a central figure.

Larry Becker Contemporary Art

Our current exhibition of the drawings of John Zinsser, ‘Homage/Homage’, will be installed in the gallery at a future date. At present, we are displaying one drawing at a time in our front window.

Pentimenti Gallery

We had to postpone our March exhibitions just a few days before the opening. We will probably not open until May 30th, should everything return to normal.
We knew we needed to figure something out during this crisis, to stay engaged with the arts community and continue to support our artists.

While forced to stay home, this period provided an unexpected opportunity to improve our virtual presence and be creative. Last month, Pentimenti Gallery launched PENTIMENTI WAREHOUSE, a new online platform designed to present exclusive exhibitions as well as provide transparent and informed access to rare-to-market and historically significant work by our represented artists. Our first exhibition features the work of Kevin Finklea: Nevus, 15 works on paper. PENTIMENTI WAREHOUSE will certainly continue long after the pandemic.

We hope this initiative boosts morale and inspires artists to create even through these bleak times. It also serves as a free art resource and an escape from the stress of the pandemic for viewers.

MUSE Gallery

Muse Gallery is an artists’ cooperative that was established in 1977 to encourage and promote its members’ artistic expression.

During these difficult times, we are in uncharted waters. We are working to solve the problem of our physical gallery being closed to the public. Our greatest worries are the lack of financial support and the challenge of establishing an online platform to sell our artwork.

As we navigate our new reality, we strive to remain motivated and flexible. We are actively maintaining our connections by utilizing zoom critiques and spirited conversations. We are showing new work on our website, Instagram and Facebook. Looking forward, the gallery will have group displays until we can reopen by appointment and restart our monthly solo shows.

We miss the shared experience of art between our members, artists, patrons and our community. We are committed to staying inspired, persevering and surviving.


3rd Street Gallery

3rd Street Gallery, a long running, local artists co-op in Philadelphia. Its new location, 610 S. 3rd Street, is temporarily closed through the Covid-19 shut down. We are hoping that the closure will not be permanent for us. We run fully on membership contribution and gallery sales. We have found over the course of the shutdown that cooperatives in our position are not eligible for most assistance offered in the arts. Our group is still operating and will be updating our website with a new online gallery of member work, reaching out on social media and we are still reviewing applicants for membership. Interested artist’s can find our applications on Inquiries about artworks for sale at can be directed to:

The Print Center

Community and collaboration are the core of The Print Center. We believe that now, more than ever, it is important to foster connection. While The Print Center is closed, we are using our email newsletter, social media platforms and website to provide the unique and personal experience we normally offer in person. We are creating a series of “Closer Looks” at all facets of our program: past and future exhibitions, ANNUAL International Competitions, The Gallery Store, our publications and the Artists-in-Schools Program. We are expanding and deepening the information we provide virtually, through the creation of new text and video content. We look forward to reopening our doors, and hope to provide something inspirational while we are apart.

Stanek Gallery

We have fully committed to expanding our online programs to create the same engaging experience our collectors and followers have come to expect from Stanek Gallery. Every program, event, and piece of content we create is a reminder that “art is essential”. . . .

We have started or expanded the following programs since we had to close our doors to the public: Silent Auctions; Collector Reflections; Online Exhibitions; Featured Artist, all of which can be accessed through our website. We are also featuring Instagram Live Streams.

Marginal Utility

We have paid our May rent and have back up plans in case either of us loses our job. We have been in contact with other spaces in the 319 building to come up with ways to sustain our constellation of galleries throughout this collective crisis.

Marginal Utility will present a selection of online projects through the gallery’s website:

1. Reflecting on our current situation, Mount Airy Philadelphia based artist Taji Ra’oof Nahl will present a multi channel video project that looks at the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in the late 19th century.

2. Exercises in Ineffability 02: Videos made over the past two months while in self isolation by the Pafa Expanded Video class.

3. A reading group discussion with Philadelphia based artist-educator Jim Grilli that looks at an essay by Jacques Lacan.

Tiger Strikes Asteroid

During this time our gallery is closed and our current exhibition has been living in self isolation. The group show Preserving a Find, featuring work by Patrick Maguire, SaraNoa Mark, Monica Palma, Liza Samuel, Dominic Terlizzi, and Thaddeus Wolfe, suddenly feels extremely relevant as we find ourselves deep in quarantine, with little sense of time. We are highlighting the artists in this show on social media by asking them to respond to a few questions surrounding time and preservation, themes related to the show. As a network we have launched a project called TSA_PDF which is a series of printable exhibitions curated by our members at all of our sites(NY, LA, CHI, GVL). People are invited to download and print these works on their home printers and share their “install shots,” which we will share on social media. In order to access the files, people can pay what they wish with a $1 minimum — 100% of proceeds will be split evenly between Artist Relief and the participating artists. We view these exhibitions as a fun, experimental way to bring something physical and meaningful into people’s homes as they socially distance.

Grizzly Grizzly

Grizzly Grizzly is currently reconfiguring its programming for the upcoming months. We are anticipating that exhibitions and First Friday openings will be postponed for quite a while. In light of that, and in conversation with artist collectives in building 319, we are brainstorming how to support artists and our own artistic practices while maintaining social distancing guidelines. A new issue of our free quarterly publication In Dialogue will be released digitally in early June. Additionally, Leah Modigliani, whose work has been quarantined in Gx2 since March, will be giving a virtual gallery tour of her solo exhibition Rome, 1947 at Venture Café Philadelphia in July.


Living Together in Dangerous Times

The current coronavirus threat offers us a mirror of our relationships with others and how we respond to it will reveal the traces of our shared humanity.
As Frank Snowden has recently noted in his book, Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present, “Epidemic diseases are not random events that afflict societies capriciously and without warning. On the contrary, every society produces its own vulnerabilities. To study them is to understand that society’s structure, its standard of living, and its political priorities.”

What is perhaps most urgent now is our effort to understand how political interests, racial and economic discrimination, the unequal distribution of wealth and resources, the relations between climate and health or between poverty and illness, and the extent of our care for the environment and the people who live alongside us all contribute to our physical and moral health. Indeed, how we respond to crises like the ones we face today reveals our values, commitments, and our sense of how we share the worlds in which we live and even die.

Slought’s gallery spaces will remain closed for the moment and we have postponed all upcoming events out of concern for the health and well-being of our publics, including those at the Health Ecologies Lab and the Social Justice and Arts Integration Initiative. However, we are in the process of curating a series of online programs, several of which will reactivate elements from our vast archive of events over the last 18 years and, in particular, elements that we believe resonate with and even respond to our current global and local urgencies. We hope that, in this way, we can continue to engage the most pressing issues we face, but with resources that we have all already been putting in place and that draw from the wisdom and strength offered to us by the arts and the humanities, and not only these.

We will initiate these activities soon and we hope that it can serve as a kind of training manual for living together in this unprecedented global health crisis—that it can perhaps provide us with resources for thinking about our present situation even as it can perhaps give us strength and reinforcement in this uncertain time. We will also be inviting our audiences and constituencies to contribute to this ongoing curatorial work and to join us in thinking together about what we can learn from the current crisis and how we might better prepare for future ones.

We recognize that this moment is especially precarious for our most vulnerable communities—among so many others, the elderly, those with chronic illnesses, the incarcerated, the undocumented and homeless. We will continue to advocate for the importance and even duty of community care, and we welcome any suggestions and resources that we can share and further disseminate.

See a selection of projects and recordings from our archive organized in response to Covid-19.

James Oliver Gallery

Like all of us, we did not foresee the COVID-19 virus coming and thus had no plans, per se. We closed our gallery before a shutdown was issued in Philadelphia.
We had to make decisions relatively quickly . We cancelled our planned closing reception for “Les Chic” and soon afterward had to modify our exhibition schedule for the coming months and year, shifting shows and continually communicating with our artists, all the time keeping in touch with our fan base and community through social media.

We are very fortunate to be in a position of strength with our staff, our following, our artists and did have a financial reserve retained for such an emergency beyond our social capacity.

We look forward to re-opening our physical space through a big Fall Show opening in mid-October. Meanwhile, we’ll continue engaging with the community at-large through what we offer virtually and through website, social media.

Peace with all!


Gallery view of paper sculptures and photographs in Paradigm Gallery
Paradigm Gallery + Studio: “Strange Delights” Installation View. Image courtesy of Paradigm Gallery + Studio
A large collection of pins on a jean jacket.
InLiquid: A collector’s collection of enamel pins since the 1980s, 2020. Image courtesy of Deborah Kostianovsky
A blurry figure posing with abstract art with "AUTOMAT" logo superimposed below.
AUTOMAT Collective: “Cultivating a Garden Off Grid” Profile picture for November, 2019 exhibition. Curator: Lydia Smith. 2020. Image courtesy of AUTOMAT Collective
Marker drawing of an eye sprouting from a plant.
Fleisher/Ollman: Queen Nancy Bell, “Untitled (Jesus,es)” Ink, gouache and acrylic on paper, 12 x 9 in, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Fleisher/Ollman
Ceramic teapot with painting of Toni Morrison
Wexler Gallery: Robert Lugo, “To Disarm: Toni Morrison” Ceramic, china paint, enamel, epoxy, and gun parts, 2020. Image by KeneK Photography courtesy of Wexler Galler
Painting of a red barn in a field of dead grass on a stormy day.
Gross McCleaf Gallery: Ted Walsh, “Land Reticent” Oil on panel, 24 x 48 inches, 2019. Image courtesy of Gross McCleaf Gallery
Abstract painting of geometric shapes on red and black patterned background.
Cerulean Arts: Charles Kalick, “RBW8” Acrylic on birch panel, 16” x 16”. Image courtesy of Charles Kalick
Sculptures of pastel colored wooden boats in front of a photo of water
Locks Gallery: Jennifer Bartlett, “Sea Wall” Installation view, 1985. Image courtesy of Locks Gallery. Photo by Tom Powel Imaging.
Drawing of a black zig zag on a gray rectangle.
Larry Becker Contemporary Art: John Zinsser, “Fredenthal II” Colored pencil on paper, Framed drawing, 13 1/2” x 11”. Frame o.d.: 15 7/8” x 13 3/8”. 2020. Image courtesy of Larry Becker Contemporary Art and the artist
Blue paper with white and red circles going down vertically
Pentimenti Gallery: Kevin Finklea, “Nevus #2” Acrylic on handmade paper, 12 x 9.25 inches, 2019. Image courtesy of Pentimenti Gallery and the artist
Fabric portrait of a figure wearing a red hat
Muse Gallery: Carolyn Harper, “Zyrell” Hand sewn quilt, hand dyed and other fabric, 2020. Studio Image courtesy of the artist
Cover of "Party Pictures"
The Print Center: William Earle Williams, “Party Pictures” 2020. Images courtesy of The Print Center
Painting of a vacant industrial interior
Stanek Gallery: “Bardo Room V”, Oil on board , 48 x 48 inches, 2018. Image courtesy of Stanek Gallery
Art hanging in a kitchen above the stove
Tiger Strikes Asteroid: “TSA_PDF 002: Zone V” Curated by Yael Eban. Installation image in the kitchen of Susan Klein. Image courtesy of Susan Klein
Sculpture of donald trump on a pulley device like a puppet.
Grizzly Grizzly: “Rome, 1947” Installation view by Leah Modigliani. Photo by Amy Hicks
Woman carrying a boombox into a field
Slought: Graciela Iturbide, “Mujer Ángel, Sonora Desert” 1979. Image courtesy of the artist
A chair in front of an easel with an in-progress painting.
James Oliver Gallery: Artist/owner James Oliver, painting alone during the quarantine. Image courtesy of the James Oliver Gallery and James Oliver