On Saturday, Pace Gallery‘s New York flagship building closed to the public for the day after the space was spray-painted with pro-Palestine messages.
Pace is the latest New York gallery to be tagged with phrases related to the conflict in Gaza. Lévy Gorvy Dayan gallery has more than once been pasted with posters protesting its owners’ views on the conflict, and multiple Chinatown galleries were this month affixed with messages that called on dealers to address Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza, where more than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed since the October 7 Hamas attack, according to the local health ministry.
The gallery’s announcement on social media of its temporary closure did not mention that Pace was tagged with similar phrases. The closure occurred on Saturday, which is typically the busiest day for galleries in Chelsea.
A Pace spokesperson told ARTnews that the cause for the closure was clean-up necessitated by the spray-painted words and pasted images.
“Between Friday night and Saturday morning, the exterior of our 540 West 25th Street gallery was vandalized,” a gallery spokesperson said in a statement. “The vandalism was extensive enough to necessitate the gallery’s closure while we complete clean-up efforts. The safety of our staff and visitors to our galleries is of the utmost importance, as is our commitment to fostering a safe and open workplace that respects differences of thought within our community.”
The statement continued, “We are a gallery that consists of a community of artists and employees, many of whom are actively engaged in socio-political issues and attuned to global events. With this diversity comes divergent viewpoints. In cases of disagreement, we remain committed to supporting meaningful civil discourse.”
Images obtained by ARTnews appear to show Pace’s facade spray-painted with phrases such as “Free Gaza.” Additionally, the gallery seems to have been splashed with red paint intended to mimic blood spatters.
The facade also seems to have been pasted with images that referred to pushback Pace received when it posted to Instagram about an artwork dealing with the fallout of the October 7 Hamas attack. The attack is thought to have killed 1,200 Israelis and involved the taking of over 200 hostages, some of whom have since been released. Israel has said that more than 100 hostages are still being held by Hamas.
Around a week ago, Pace posted about Signals, a 2023 video by Michael Rovner, an Israeli artist who is represented by the gallery. The video, according to Pace’s description, is “a call for the safe return of the more than 100 Israeli hostages still missing.” It features rows of figures that wave their arms around; the chest of each person appears to emit a red glow.
“These hand gestures are a universal code for help, a signal of distress,” Rovner has said of the work. “The red pulses are related to heartbeats, but it’s also a color of urgency and danger.”
Signals has appeared in Times Square, as well as in public sites in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. When Pace posted about the New York version, commenters seized on the wording of the gallery’s description for the piece, which initially provided a death count for the Hamas attack while also eliding figures for the amount of Gazans who have been killed in its wake.
Among the top-liked comments on the post is one that accuses Pace of “art-washing a genocide.” After receiving other such comments on the post, Pace appears to have edited the caption for it to include mention that the current conflict has “claimed the lives of more than 23,000 Palestinians to date.” The post now bears an appended line about the update; it says the gallery previously “omitted the broader context of the ongoing conflict in Gaza and the horrific loss of life.”
Pasted to Pace’s facade this week was a blown-up screenshot of negative comments the gallery received on the post, as well as another poster that labels Rovner a “Zionist” and accuses her and Pace of “genocide” and “historical revisionism.”