CLEARING Gallery Leaves Brooklyn and Lands on the Bowery

CLEARING's new location on the Bowery. Photography by JSP Art Photography. All images courtesy of CLEARING.

12 years ago, French-born Olivier Babin broke into the New York art world by opening CLEARING in Bushwick, a neighborhood known more for its artist studios than galleries at the time. The artist-turned-gallerist's instincts then led him to open outposts in Brussels and Los Angeles. Over the years, CLEARING has become known for fostering a spunky, tight-knit roster of artists, which includes the likes of Korakrit Arunanondchai, Harold Ancart, Huma Babha, Marguerite Humeau, Lili Reynaud-Dewar, and Meriem Bennani. This spring, Babin and the CLEARING team turn a page in the gallery's history by moving their New York location from Brooklyn to the Bowery. Before the inaugural group show, "MAIDEN VOYAGE," which opens tonight, Babin shared exclusive images of the new space and called up CULTURED to talk about outgrowing Bushwick, fighting for relevance in New York, and looking forward to lunches at Whole Foods. 

CULTURED: How are you feeling ahead of the new gallery’s opening?

Olivier Babin: I’ve been pacing a lot, but I’m very excited for the artists, for the whole CLEARING team and also for myself! I’ve been in New York for 14 years. For 13.5 of them I’ve lived in Brooklyn, and for 12 the gallery has been on the same street in Bushwick. This is definitely a new chapter. 

CULTURED: What does the move to Manhattan mean to you?

Babin: We’re a New York gallery. We may have outgrown the Bushwick ecosystem, and we don’t want our artists to outgrow us, which would happen if we hadn’t made the move… We just wanted to come back to the front of the scene. Not that we had quite fallen behind yet, but it is a risk. That’s what’s so exciting about New York: it’s like a casino that’s open 24/7, but there’s also a constant fight for survival, renewal, and relevance.

CULTURED: The Bowery is such a storied part of Manhattan’s landscape. What does the street mean to you?

Babin: The famous/infamous duality is important in the lives of all cities, and probably especially to New York. We’re thrilled to be on the Bowery because it’s such a rich setting. We’re across the street from Sperone Westwater. The New Museum is just to the south of us. There’s Whole Foods, which doesn’t mean much for everyone but when you come from Bushwick having one across the street is going to make lunch breaks a bit easier. Andrew Edlin, Bridget Donahue, and Karma are not too far. Cooper Union is up the street, where Meriem Bennani and Sedrick Chisom, who will have his first show at the gallery in September, went to school… This is as New York as it gets.

CULTURED: Tell me a bit about “MAIDEN VOYAGE,” the show that will inaugurate the space?

Babin: We wanted it to be sort of a family photo. It’s like, “All aboard.” That’s very much how I see the gallery; it’s a crew, a horizon, a trip… The show will bring together major works by most of our artists. We’ll show a piece from Meriem Bennani that hasn’t been exhibited since the Whitney Biennial in 2019. We’ll show new work from Jean-Marie Appriou… It’s going to be a show that looks and feels good. It’s a housewarming of sorts, a celebration!

CULTURED: Is expansion beyond New York, Brussels, and LA on the horizon?

Babin: Expanding is fun and exciting, but right now we want to catch our breath and do what we got the space to do: run an ambitious program. We’re going back to great shows by great artists. We haven’t had a new show in New York in a few months. Once we’ve reached a cruising speed, we’ll make sure to get a new space in LA. 


CULTURED: A few words to describe the new gallery’s ethos?

Babin: A ship sailing through the horizon with a great crew. 

"MAIDEN VOYAGE" is on view through May 21, 2023 at CLEARING in New York.