Showing in rough waters

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Parallels gallery closed last week, not the first loss on the gallery scene this year. But it came and went pretty quickly–a not so unusual occurrence in the art world and the business world. And it has been a rough year (see May 24 post “Money makes the art world go round).

But then we heard a rumor that Charles More Gallery may be in deep water. The well-respected gallery has been a strong swimmer in the Philadelphia art world for more than 20 years, showing consistently high-quality shows with respected artists like Sidney Goodman (his “Angel” shown here) and James Havard.

“I don’t have any plan to close,” said More yesterday, although he did say he’d been hit hard by the economy, just like everyone else in the art business, and he added he’d had some personal upheavals.

But More, a businessman, is doing business–with Mitchell Zamarin, owner of Rittenhouse Fine Art. Zamarin is both renting More’s front room to show his own artists and renting 1,200 feet of More’s storage space.

That means More had to unload inventory (he had 3,000 pieces in storage) to make room for Zamarin’s. But More said that wasn’t he only motive. “I had 25 to 30 artists multiplied by 30 or 20 (pieces in inventory),” More said. “It became unmanageable for me.”

The only coherent show up at More, right now, is a Rittenhouse Fine Art show–hyper-realist, smooth-surface, slick still lifes from artists like Jeanette Pasin Sloan (her “Greek Key” shown left). Zamarin has shows lined up for that space into January, including a show of the Trompe l’Oeuil Society of Artists (golly, I didn’t know there was such a thing) starting Oct. 15.

The rest of More’s space will show pieces selected from inventory through the summer. More has also seen several of his artists move on to New York galleries recently, including Sara McEneany and Randall Exon (his “Kill Cummin” right). “I still have access to Randall Exon,” More said. “That relationship is still going on.”

He said it’s every artist’s dream to show in New York. “A lot of this is just natural growth. …I’ve shown these guys, some of them for 20 years and they’ve been invited to show in New York. There’s a paradox. If they’re good enough to be here, they’re good enough to go on. …I’m very proud of the people who go on.”

More now has 15 artists, including Goodman, Ben Kamihara and David Fertig (his “Three Officers” left), and a couple of new ones–Chuck Houng and David Campbell.

“We’re trying to think of a new way to make a living,” More said. While he’s thinking, hasn’t yet planned any shows for the fall, although he mentioned that he and Zamarin are talking about a show of the late Thomas Hart Benton’s work–a big change for a man who has always dealt with living artists and sold pieces hot from the studio (Benton’s “Cradling Wheat” shown right).

He said he’s trying to reexamine who his clients are, what kind of art they would buy, and in what location they’d be most likely to buy it.

Gone are his traditional market–suburbanites from the Main Line who used to come into town for the orchestra, Nan Duskin and art, he said. (He thought the city had placed too many obstacles in their path to Center City over the years with the blocking off Chestnut Street, the construction zone when Liberty Place went up, the Schuylkill Expressway reduced to one lane for a while, the lack of parking. “We were slowly strangled here.”)

I hope he stays afloat.

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