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NEW YORK — Since 1991, Gallagher’s on East 12th Street has been a favorite haunt of designers and art directors.
The gallery and archive of vintage magazines and prints was something of a mecca of inspiration, with more than one million vintage magazines and prints on hand. But like so many things, a lease’s end and subsequent meteoric rise in rent has prompted Gallagher’s owner, Michael Gallagher, to close shop at the end of this week.
Gallagher and his wife, Mary, who runs the archive with him, will be shipping the magazines and prints by almost every major fashion photographer to their Catskills home, where they plan to store them in their barn, and continue to sell sets of magazines by special request and online at Vintagemagazines.com. Already-placed commitments will be honored, and Gallagher is still taking orders for special sets of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
“It’s been a great time,” Michael Gallagher said on Friday. “I am going to miss this place.”
And so probably will many designers. On a regular day, one could descend the steep steps into Gallagher’s basement space, and find designers such as Anna Sui, Marc Jacobs and John Galliano rifling through stacks of vintage fashion prints, and design teams fighting over sets of magazines like W, Interview and Paris Match and lesser-known titles like Charm and Status & Diplomat.
“It’s so sad because it was like a treasure trove, especially for someone like me who collects magazines,” Sui said. “I learned so much about magazines I didn’t know, and he had an incredible fashion library. One of my favorite things about it was just always the exploring.”
A fan of fashion photography, Gallagher collected issues of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar from the Fifties and Sixties. He made his first sale to Steven Meisel, after he was introduced to the photographer by his friend, illustrator Tim Sheaffer, and used that money to start accumulating the extensive collection.
“I owe a lot to Steven Meisel and Eileen Ford,” Gallagher said. “He put us on the map, and Eileen really opened her Rolodex for us.”
Some collections were bequeathed to him. Liz Tilberis, the late editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar, for instance, left him with her set of British Vogues, while Carrie Donovan of The New York Times gave many of her books.
The gallery is plastered with original prints and magazine covers, with many signed by the likes of the late Richard Avedon and Annie Leibovitz.
In the process, Gallagher and his wife have befriended many of the designers, art directors, photographers and models who have crossed their threshold, from Avedon and Henri Cartier-Bresson to model Veruschka.
As for Gallagher’s plans, he has bought four historical homes in Oak Hill, N.Y., that he plans to refurbish and possibly turn into bed and breakfasts or perhaps even a gallery. In the meantime, he and his wife have their hands full with their five-year-old twins, Martin and Michaela. “Martin has a camera and is taking pictures in a Helmut Newton sort of way,” he said. “It bothers me a little.”