Q: Do you think this multiplication of galleries implies a certain lack of progress in artistic creation?
Kahnweiler: No, I don’t think so. I see it as a purely economic phenomenon.
Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler was 23 years old when first opened a little art gallery in Paris, prior to that he had worked in finance, after that he became Picasso’s dealer. (Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, My Galleries and Painters, Thames and Hudson, 1971, p.33)
Last year Christine Abrahams Gallery closed after 25 years of business. I met Guy Abrahams, director of the Christine Abrahams Gallery, once or twice when I we were both studying at Monash University. Guy was studying law and I was studying philosophy.
Christine Abrahams Gallery was a clothing factory before architect Daryl Jackson converted it to a gallery. This is typical of many of Melbourne’s galleries; as clothing manufacturing moved to outer suburbs or other countries, many of Melbourne’s former clothing factories have been converted to art galleries. Flinders Lane was the centre of Melbourne’s clothing industry and is now the centre of art galleries.
Before Christine Abrahams founded her gallery in 1983 she had been manager of Powell Street Gallery and a co-director of Axiom Gallery. Regarding being the director of a commercial art gallery, Guy Abrahams said: “It is a role that involves an appreciation of art and a passion for it, an interest in people and sensitivity to the needs of the artist and one’s clients. Business skills are also vitally important because commercial galleries depend on sales to survive and on selling art for the sake of the artist”. Australian Jewish News reported 9/9/08
The well planned and announced closure of Christine Abrahams Gallery stands in contrast with the sudden closing of Groundfloor Gallery, Belamain in Sydney in September 2008. Several Sydney artists claiming they are owed more than $20,000 collectively for sold works by Groundfloor Gallery director Jeannette Mascolo. The difference between these two gallery closures is clearly is one of business skills and not artistic.
I am happy to celebrate the opening of an art gallery with a free glass of wine but I do not mourn the closure of any art galleries; they are businesses. More or less art galleries are not an indication of artistic progress or vitality. Art galleries do have an effect on art but then so do the shops selling art supplies (art critics, art magazines, etc.).