The Value of the Contemporary Art Gallery

Editor David Carrier writes in his current article “The Contemporary Art Gallery” in the Brooklyn Rail:   

“Artists, gallerists, curators, collectors, and critics—these are the essential components of a contemporary art world. Artists make the art that galleries display; this art is evaluated by critics and purchased by collectors or by curators for museums. Take any one of these components away, and our art world system would collapse. Galleries are admission free, unlike most museums. But the commodities they sell are not affordable by most art critics. The grandest galleries can afford more attractive displays than museums. But they have relatively small audiences and so feel more like private clubs than public spaces. There are a great many studies of the art museum. By contrast, the art gallery has inspired much less attention. That is surprising, for almost inevitably contemporary art goes from the gallery to the museum. Anyone who takes even a casual interest in contemporary visual art knows art galleries. Nowadays ubiquitous, because they are so familiar, we perhaps do not sufficiently realize how distinctive they are. We take them for granted.”

There really exist 3 types of galleries: The ones Carrier discusses in his article, the smaller non-profit types of which Les Malamut is an example, and the gallery/store that sells not only artworks but other items or does framing. Thus all of us who love art and love looking at art have a great number of choices when wanting to experience art or purchase art.

The big grand galleries that exist in NYC are a great way to spend time learning about contemporary art or seeing established well-known masters. They are also a great place to ask questions about the artworks and the artists. I have always found it enjoyable to chat with the gallery personnel as it’s their job to be knowledgeable about the current exhibit. But don’t even consider these galleries as places to purchase a piece. Prices are way beyond most of our means.

The second type of gallery, the non-profit one, has more affordable art. The artists are usually local residents, the quality of their works can be on par with NYC galleries, and  their prices are not only affordable but in most cases the money from a sale goes entirely to the artist. So here you are really supporting the artist, not the gallery! Many of these galleries are where artists starting out get their first chance and purchasing one of their works not only supports them economically but also psychologically!

The last type, the gallery/store can be a great place to visit and purchase art. These business people have a “stable” of artists that they promote with reasonable pricing. If you can make one of the exhibit receptions, you will also be able to talk to the artists themselves, ask questions of the business person about their other artists, and enjoy whatever else the store sells. Located in a town’s downtown they are a great place to stop in on a day of shopping and when looking for gifts. The only negative is that the shop gets a percentage of the selling price and in some stores the art is rather crammed together on the walls.

I’ll end with a list of some of Union County’s great non-profit galleries and a gallery/store that I personally like (and my artist friends represented by them would recommend)

Casano Community Center Art Gallery – exhibits only Roselle Park Residents  314 Chestnut St. Roselle Park, NJ

Tomasulo Art Gallery Union County College first floor of the Kenneth Campbell MacKay Library 1033 Springfield Avenue Cranford, NJ

Keane University Galleries: James Howe Gallery and the Nancy Dryfoos Gallery 1000 Morris Avenue, Union NJ

Pearl St Gallery – small gallery in an historic building 633 Pearl Street Elizabeth, NJ (908)558-2550

1978 Gallery – small downtown gallery they also offer art classes 1978 Springfield Avenue Maplewood, NJ

Visual Arts Center of NJ – private art school with 3 public galleries 68 Elm Street, Summit NJ

Arts Guild NJ – located in an historic building in downtown Rahway, they also offer art classes 1670 Irving Street Rahway, NJ

Barron Arts Center – located in an historic old library, they also offer art classes, poetry readings and other cultural events 582 Rahway Avenue Woodbridge, New Jersey

The Artist Framer – frame shop that showcases artwork, also hold classes on site 17 North Avenue East Cranford, NJ

                                            Painting With Words” – Leona M Seufert