As the floodwaters recede and stock is taken of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, it’s evident that the art world has been deeply affected by this terrible disaster. In New York City alone, art collectors, galleries and artists themselves have suffered terrible losses, and artwork continues to be affected as moisture and remaining debris threaten more damage. I recently read that piles of soiled paintings are piled up in front of several galleries in Chelsea. Entire exhibits have been destroyed and many artists have lost significant amounts of their work. One sculptor and painter, Z Behl, lost every single piece she labored to create over the past two years. When we consider that artists struggle to make a living as it is, these types of losses can only be described as devastating.
I know that countless families have lost their homes and that many more are struggling without heat and power in Sandy’s wake. A friend of mine, in fact, is crushed over losing every treasured possession from the first floor of her home. But just as business owners are troubled by extensive damage to their property and goods, just as heartbroken homeowners are lamenting the loss of their mementos, heirlooms and homes, artists and gallery owners all over the Northeast are heartbroken over the loss of their work and their livelihood. And this is, ultimately, a loss to all of us. Art, just like the beautiful, personal treasures we value at home, touches us, inspires us, and gives our world beauty and meaning.
Many of our artists have been touched by destruction over the past week. But artists, being guided by a deep desire to express themselves, will likely promise to be resilient, if not inspired by this experience. Inspiration, of course, may be a catalyst for more art. After all, it was W.B. Yeats who once said, “Hope and Memory have one daughter, and her name is Art… O beloved daughter of Hope and Memory, be with me for a while.”