A few years ago I wrote about a new gallery in town and in the high expectations the owner, the artists involved, and the arts community had for the endeavor. For almost three full years the owner mounted in-depth, quality and insightful shows of traditional, cutting-edge, and informed art and artists. The receptions were well attended and the dialog surrounding the shows was lively and informed.
In the last few weeks’ word had gotten around that the gallery was going to close at the end of the year. The reasoning being mentioned most was the lack of sales and, the financial lost the owner had withstood for the duration of the gallery. He had a viable business plan from the start and he had adhered to it throughout the time the gallery was open.
Almost every show had had some sales, some shows better than others, but the reality was no show paid for itself and the owner had never broken even in any single month in operation. He’d come close once or twice, but the collectors and the buyers never quite made any one show a market standout.
Finally, understandably, the owner was forced to review his business plan, took stock of the financial reality of the local art community and the foreseeable future and, with solemn disappointment, informed his gallery artists and the art community he would be closing his doors at the conclusion of the present show.
What happened next should surprise no one. The last show sold and sold well, both the artist and the gallery owner would be walking away with some profit from this venture. At least one artist, under their breath, mentioned that … see if he had just held out for only a couple more months he would have turned the corner.
I have known the gallery owner for years and respect him as one of the most knowledgeable and talented artist/gallerists in the business. The location was good, the amenities were well above average [lights, parking, etc.], and the neighbors and the neighborhood were excellent.
What went wrong?
Nothing went wrong, but nothing went right either. An art gallery is a difficult business to establish and to maintain, and although he had developed and nurtured a vibrant relationship with local artists and the art community, he was not able to develop a viable relationship with the business community at large. This is not a critique or a criticism of his business prowess, but an indictment of the local business community as a whole.
Art is not a necessity, that’s a given, but neither are massage parlors nor pet stores. An art gallery chronicles the tastes of the community, the inventiveness and desires of its artists, and it serves as a benchmark for creativity in the arts community. An art gallery serves a purpose while, arguably, art serves no purpose. Art is about affect, associations, and emotional responses. Art can be irrational and leave some of the most important things unsaid.
In closing, the most important thing is to recognize the dedication and commitment shown to the arts community by the gallery owner and to thank him for a job well done.