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Metro Pictures

A small account of some of the things that happened within the walls of one of New York’s greatest art galleries.

Words by Raquel Fernández Sobrín

11th of March, 2021

Admiration is a double-edged sword because, although it implies respect, it can prevent us from seeing clearly on certain occasions. For example: hear Janelle Reiring, co-founder of New York’s art gallery Metro Pictures, saying that for her and her partner “it’s just time to go” is hard to digest and difficult to accept for those who revere them. Even if it has been more than 40 years since they opened it.


METRO PICTURES Invitacion inauguración 1981 Suit Magazine

It was the autumn of 1980 and Reiring and her partner, Helene Weiner, opened the door to more than just the first location of their gallery (the one that will close at the end of this year is the third). His selection of twelve artists -among them Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo, Laurie Simmons and Richard Prince– would give shape to what was later called the “Pictures generation”, because their style involved using images from mass media or advertising photography to express their ideas. His works, which flirted with appropriation, worked because they were recognizable, and the fact that they were so made them very close and familiar to the public.


The connection of the fruit of their work with the viewer happens so easily that it may seem that finding the artists, grouping them together, choosing their works and helping them to build their careers in parallel was easy as well. But in every product of human creation there are things we don’t see. Not to mention the difficulty of continuing to discover new profiles to add to their portfolio. Those twelve pioneers were later joined by Louise Lawler, Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw, René Daniëls and Latifa Echakhch. “What Metro Pictures achieved would be considered a turning point equivalent to what Ileana Sonnabend and Leo Castelli achieved“, said Douglas Eklund, curator of the exhibition that the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to the gallery in 2009, in an interview with The New York Times. For the uninitiated, the Sonnabend-Castelli couple discovered Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning among others.


Untitled Cindy Sherman 1981

From that November afternoon to the present day, the art industry has changed as much as anything else. For a start, it has gone from miniscule to colossal is size, and from having its epicenter in Manhattan to operating with a system of must-see fairs that every year circle the earth a couple of times. Everything has changed so much that right now if you search for “Metro Pictures” on the internet you’ll be inundated with suggestions of possible subway poses for Instagram.


The decision to pull back the curtain has been neither economic nor sentimental. Weiner and Reiring aren’t even tired. They have only used their vision again to realize that they have to make way for younger gazes. That one stage is over and it is time to think about what to do with the next. Managing the times of life properly is another kind of art, but art nonetheless.



Men in Cities installation Robert Longo Suit Magazine

Photos: Invitation, Cindy Sherman’s ‘Untitled’ and Robert Longo’s “Men in the Cities” installation. All of them belong to the first Metro Pictures exhibition back in 1980. 

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