.One of the best and most renowned arts writers in the area seems amazed to find out that several galleries have closed and asks on FB: "What's happening?".
First, the writer needs to spend more time with boots on the ground. This is nothing new. Gallerists, like all businessmen, are shameless boosters. It takes time for them to trust you to the point that they will confide in you.
I have been reporting on this for well over a year, but it was something no one wanted to hear, let alone report on, although off-the-record, people were telling me it was true and that there was more to come.
I see this as the unfortunate nexus of several things. It is a problem of lags. Economic lags. The boom- bubble leading up to 2008 enriched a lot of prospective gallery owners who saw a chance to actualize their dreams. They overestimated the market in the Tampa Bay area, and few, if any, were willing to move to a proven market, in part because start-up costs and the inconvenience of uprooting oneself. The Depression gnawed away at the market that was here, and it is not clear as to whether it had begun to lift yet. The number of artists increased by 25%, the number of galleries even more...all as the market shrank. Most gallerists did not market themselves broadly, expecting business to walk in through their doors.
As sales failed to materialized, people hunkered down, engaging different strategies (including some superstitious behaviors),belt-tightening etc. There was another lag there. Then came the idiot web poll by a local magazine that resulted in the declaration that Saint Pete was the #1 Arts destination and Tampa #2 (for medium sized cities), and in spite of the reality facing them, they mindlessly repeated this blatant lie and secretly hoped change was around the corner. Others thought the GOP Convention "Would put us on the map". I still hear crap like that from people who should know better.
No one single thing is going to "put us over the top".
Now that people are realizing the market just isn't here, not in the size required to sustain the supply side, galleries are falling. Again, the lag between cause and effect. The market is self-correcting. This is a belated Crash.
[A few galleries have closed for other reasons, but only a very few.]