WORD TRICKLED OUT last weekend that General Growth Properties (GGP), the property managers of Pioneer Place Mall, had terminated the lease of Place, an art gallery that's had a subsidized rental space at the mall since 2010.
Place curator Gabe Flores, in a detailed account released on Place's website, alleged that GGP pulled Place's lease after objecting to the content of a recent exhibit: Paul Clay's Parking Lot Dance, John Dougherty's Shit Balloons, and Michael Reinsch's A High Improbability of Death: A Celebration of Suicide.
Exhibit A in Flores' account: an email he received from GGP's Bob Buchanan on February 21.
"Did you stop to think for a moment where it is that you're currently doing business? A video that tweaks the nose of the 'over-the-top, self-infatuated American shopping culture'?; shit balloons?; a mock suicide? Why would you imagine that this would be okay here? If this is what we can look forward to, you'll have to find a different venue in which to curate your art." (By press time, Buchanan had not responded to a request for comment.)
Flores says he sent a letter explaining that the content of Place's shows is in line with materials sold elsewhere in the mall, but received no response. Instead, on Wednesday, March 19, he received notice that Place's lease would terminate on March 31. During a subsequent meeting, according to Flores, Buchanan "stated that GGP could no longer afford to subsidize Place's rent and that he had tenants willing to pay full market value. Mr. Buchanan continually reiterated, 'You can't ride the bus for free forever.'"
Place's upcoming shows have been cancelled; meanwhile, Place's final show, You Can't Ride the Bus for Free Forever, will be held Sunday, March 30, from 2-5 pm (Pioneer Place Mall, 700 SW 5th, 3rd floor).
There are currently two other art galleries in Pioneer Place Mall—the Mark Woolley Gallery and Peoples Art of Portland. Their leases are "secure," according to Woolley and Peoples' Chris Haberman.
"Art is always about creating dialogue and this surely will," says Woolley. "Gabe Flores has had an amazing run at Place for four years and has presented many fine shows.... Some have undoubtedly been beyond the mall's comfort level. As someone who has had a number of gallery spaces over 20 years, I know that the best way to do exactly what you want is to have your very own stand-alone space. My most transgressive and socially biting shows were in that context. Last year when I wanted to curate an 'ass' show, with graphic nudity, I did it at my friend Paul Soriano's Cock Gallery on NW Everett, not at Pioneer Place. I know Gabe will be happier and more free in his own space. As the mall has subsidized us in a major way and it is a communal, retail establishment, we do not, understandably, have the same level of curatorial freedom we might elsewhere in private venues. That is the trade-off. I wish him all the best."