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Destination PHL: Who visits local galleries?


Post by James Rosenthal

I imagine everyone in the art community saw the piece in the NY Times travel guide about Philadelphia becoming a major art destination. [no longer available online, sorry, or I’d link it.] It made me think of the last such article about the invasion of Brooklyn artists seeking cheaper rents. Although it is encouraging to get so much favorable press, I wonder what the reality is.

Zoe Strauss, speaking at the opening of her Ramp Project at ICA last Spring.

Our main institutions remain the draw they always were. I have friends from the UK who visit in order to see Duchamp’s Large Glass, in the PMA. They like the Fabric Workshop and the ICA of course, but do they come here for contemporary galleries? No.

Kelly McRaven
Kelly McRaven, former Philly artist now based in New York at her First Friday opening at Peng Gallery in September, 2006.

The writer of the recent NYT piece exaggerates the phenomenon and suggests there is a growing number of contemporary galleries. I beg to differ. New contemporary ones may open but others close their doors, notably Spector Gallery – which came pretty close to being the ground zero of faux naif art. Unfortunately, it never accomplished the goal of rising above a local phenomenon. The venerable Project Room, another springboard, is no more. We do still have Base Kamp and 1026, but I fear that wave has passed with the exuberence of youth. There is a sense of Renaissance occurring and that is wonderful but we shouldn’t delude ourselves with ridiculous comparisons and thinking First Friday constitutes a major cultural event. It is true that Philly-based artists are showing in LA and NY and elsewhere but until we cater to some faction of a real honest to goodness market we will remain the quaint weekend destination.

[Ed note: The opinions expressed in this op-ed post do not represent the views of Artblog’s publishers.]

James Rosenthal is an artist/writer from Philadelphia. He has a new video piece in the online exhibit SubTerrane curated by Sean Stoops. You can see a real world version of the show at CFEVA until Dec. 21 with special hours today, Dec. 16, from 12-4 with curator Stoops and artist Hiro Sakaguchi gallery-sitting. Rosenthal recently reviewed Virgil Marti’s Crazy Quilt show and the Print Center. Both on