Wednesday, June 5, 2013

End of an Era: The Closing of Julie: Artisans' Gallery

In a recent email from Julie Dale, we got the news we hoped we'd never receive. It read, in part,

After forty years in business, Julie: Artisans’ Gallery must close its doors in June 2013.

In September of 1973 Julie: Artisans’ Gallery first opened its doors as a showcase for artists creating clothing and jewelry as an “art form.” For twenty–five years at 687 Madison Avenue and fifteen years at 762 Madison Avenue, Julie: Artisans’ Gallery has been committed to supporting uncompromising creativity and to providing an exhibition space and selling venue for the very best in these fields.

Your support over the years has enabled multiple generations of emerging talent to find their voice and leave a unique legacy. I extend my sincere thanks for your invaluable participation in this journey and trust our paths will cross again in the future.

At a time when we are losing so many things we love, it is difficult to lose yet one more. Julie: Artisans' Gallery, was "the first gallery devoted to clothing as an art form". Whenever you get to feeling that so much of life seems to consist of tee shirts made for pennies, sold for dollars, manufactured by the hundreds of thousands and sold worldwide by a megastore with global presence, a stop at Julie: Artisans' Gallery revives your faith in creativity, craftsmanship and the sheer joy of making things.

What Julie did was to seek out one of a kind garment and accessory makers with a unique voice and the skill to carry out their vision, and bring their work together in a single place where these artists could enjoy the kind of exposure they deserved.

We don't have an exact date, but if you can visit the Gallery before mid-June, you should.

Above, Julie in a felt coat with text by Francoise Hoffman. We took this picture from a previous post of ours about the annual SOFA (Sculptural Objects and Functional Art) show. SOFA still runs in Chicago, but no longer runs in New York. Another wonderful thing we've lost.

Julie: Artisans' Gallery is a small and intimate space, and every inch is filled with works of jaw-dropping variety and originality. Julie made one small concession to mass production, and that was in her passion for bakelite. She has a stunning collection of beautiful pieces (wish we could show you a picture) that hold their own against anything else in sight.

The expansive walls are perfect for showing floor length dresses and coats.

The Gallery was such a success that in 1986 Julie published Art to Wear with Abbeville Press, a publishing house that specializes in the arts. The photographs are lush and loving and lavish, and the artworks are always just a little bit beyond the most fabulous thing the reader ever saw or imagined. Each artist has his or her own section, and explains the thoughts and the processes behind the works. Many of the artists were and are at the top of the fiber arts field. Art to Wear is still available, and if some have a 1980s feel, many of the works are timeless and still beautiful today.

Because Art to Wear was published before the advent of the internet, pictures are hard to find, but here is a kimono knitted in 1977 by Marika Contompasis.

This shibori jacket by Ana Lisa Hedstrom, which was shown at Julie: Artisans' Gallery, is similar to a piece appearing in Art to Wear.

If you take a look at the Gallery's website, you'll see that several of its various tabs are headed with some of the amazingly detailed works of the late Joan Steiner. Here, a small cross-section of Joan's Basement Vest (1977) heads the What Is Art to Wear? tab.

For our hat aficionados, we had to show Joan Steiner's Highway Hat (1980), constructed with wool, velour, and sponges, heads the Newsletter Sign Up tab.

We wish you could see more of this inspired piece. It's the shoulder piece to a cape spanned by the iconic Brooklyn Bridge (1985, made of silk, cotton, polyfoam and cashmere). This heads the Online FAQs tab.

Joan Steiner's mind boggling Manhattan collar (1979; silk, wool, cotton, lace, buckram) heads - fittingly - the Location tab.

New York will not be the same without Julie: Artisans' Gallery. Thank you, Julie, for this forty year long feast for the senses.

(most of the above photographs are from the Julie: Artisans' Gallery website)


  1. So sad to hear this. I think that you took me to this gallery in March of 2012. I will never forget the experience. There was a hat that I loved and I remember to this day. A huge loss.

  2. I so wish I had visited her gallery when I was last in New York - I definitely missed out seeing something wonderful. I may have to buy the book now. Very sad that there is now one less place for artisans to display and sell their work.

    On a positive note, thanks for featuring Rae's felted art pieces in your earlier post. I received my little rat yesterday and she's adorable!

  3. I'm so sorry to be reading in this July as I didn't get the chance to go before it closed. I loved visiting Julie's gallery whenever I was in the area. I purchased 2 exquisite pieces by Keiko Yamaguchi there that I treasure. This is indeed a real loss.

  4. will Julie reopen elsewhere?

  5. In the mid 80's I sold some of my bags at Julie. I can only say that Julie Dale was one of the most wonderful people to have accepted my art bags. She wrote personally several times with checks for my items. I was always so impressed that she personally woyuld take the time to do this. I am so sorry that her store is closed. She is a class act!

  6. I am sorry to see her close her shop. I loved going into look atall the arty clothes. as an artist I wish someone would find it intheir blood to open a shop likethis.It does take guts but is always appreciated by even had my artist frombarcelona and he did well. thanks so much pauline ungar

  7. Julie carried my jewelry in the mid-80's, and I was thrilled when a head shot of her appeared in the press wearing a pair of my earrings. She is exceptional in every way, ad I was honored to have been represented in her gallery.
    Gale Rothstein

  8. I am so sad to hear this. Your book "Art to Wear" has been a GREAT inspiration to me, for many, many years.

  9. Julie's was a wonderful place, I sold my work there and she and dear Rick were such wonderful and encouraging people to work with.

  10. San Francisco fanMay 29, 2016 at 2:06 PM

    I just returned from NYC after a three year hiatus. How sad to find Julie gone and yet another mainstream store in its place. As I unpack my Linda Mendelson sweater I am grateful for my many timeless treasures found there.