How Are Your Favorite Philadelphia Galleries Surviving Through the Pandemic?
Updated: May 6
What to anticipate from them in 2021
May 5, 2021 By Catherine Kuzma
March of 2020, two days before their new exhibit was going up, Pentimenti Gallery, 145 N. Second St., was forced to shutdown. Director Christine Pfister considered it the perfect opportunity to revisit approaches they wouldn’t have had a chance to explore and implement otherwise. Within just two weeks, Christine and her team had created a website and online platform they felt would be more appealing to young collectors and those looking for more accessible work while offering exclusivity to their artists, abstract as well as those working with unique materials. They created Pentimenti Warehouse, https:// www.pentimentiwarehouse.com, which showcased smaller pieces, significant but sometimes overlooked, works by artists like Jude Gelles, Lauren Mabry, Erik Spehn, and Franco Muller. As soon as they could reopen, which was June of 2020, Pentimenti Gallery was back to it, opening their doors to the public again. The warm weather worked in their favor and helped them create a system they felt was successful and worked for them in their circumstance. Observing health recommendations, Pentimenti let in two to four people at a time, masked, distanced, and using gloves when needed. While Pfister recorded a 50% drop in attendance, the gallery stayed open since June, and the staff was brought back in September. Normally Pentimenti does two to three art fairs per year. They have had three openings since the pandemic, creating timeslots for people to RSVP their visits to the gallery. At openings, visitors were masked, distanced and not more than ten allowed to visit at a time. Some would visit with the exhibiting artist outside in their gallery’s garden, creating a nice flow of people coming and going into the gallery. Pfister is excited about Pentimenti’s 2021 spring lineup of artists showing in Philadelphia for the first time; more representational work will be included.
Below, images shared from Pentimenti's website: April 17 - June 25th, 2021, Anne Buckwalter exhibited at Pentimenti; exterior of Pentimenti Gallery
Sharon Ewing, owner and director of Gross McCleaf Gallery, 127 S. Sixteenth St., enjoyed three months of successful shows last fall after being closed all summer. Since November 30, 2020, unrelated to the pandemic, Ewing has turned her gallery over to its new Gallery Director and Owner, Rebecca Segall, an accomplished artist herself and graduate of PAFA. The Rittenhouse Square Gallery carries a half-century celebrated legacy of female ownership, and Segall promises to keep the torch flame brightly lit and steadily burning, looking forward to new beginnings in 2021. Already featured on FYI Philly's ABC Action News/David Murphy, NBC, and interviewed by Amie Potsic's Art Watch Radio Podcast, her rollout of new exhibits in the upcoming months are open to public viewing and worth a visit.
May 5 - 29, 2021, Max Mason Sky Light and Natasha Das Thread, exhibit at Gross McCleaf
Rooftops and Distant Mountains 14" x 14" , oil on linen from Christine Lafuente's April 2021 Exhibit: The View From Here ; Gross McCleaf's new Owner and Director Rebecca Segall photo: Susan Beard Photography
Bridgette Mayer, (pictured below with family; photos: courtesy of Bridgette Mayer) founder and owner of Bridgette Mayer Gallery, 709 Walnut St., says her gallery is thriving not merely surviving the pandemic. Always keeping a bird’s eye view on the business, she noticed three years ago that her highest sales were phone and virtual ones and has maintained a by-appointment-only gallery since 2017. By doing so, the shutdown didn’t have much of an effect on her gallery. Mayer's shift in focus to appointment-only viewings and her investment in online marketing helped her come out ahead. Regardless of what the future holds, she feels her gallery will be entering 2021 with great momentum. Recently, Mayer announced that her gallery will re-open its doors to the public June 1, 2021, returning to its home, a historic 1799 Philadelphia brownstone, on the 1st floor of 709 Walnut St. in Washington Square, where it existed as a public gallery from 2001 to 2016, before moving to the penthouse level of the building and becoming a private, appointment-only space. Her advice to creatives: look at what is working and expand on that for growth and if you want to learn more about how to market and sell your art, jump into her Art MBA: Art MBA All Access
When the pandemic created a shutdown last March, Katherine Stanek, director of Stanek Gallery, 242 N. 3rd St., got her staff on the phone and revisited core values, establishing guidelines of what to do and why to do it. She didn’t want her gallery to be an exclusively digital one that replaced the in-person experience. When Stanek finally did have a chance to reopen in June, people came. The exhibit that was in the midst of opening just prior to the shut down in March stayed up and was extended through June. Stanek Gallery has had three exhibits and openings since, following the guidelines that many restaurants did, allowing up to 10 people in their space at a time. Their top priority was keeping their audience, their collectors engaged with programs like their New Patrons Program and their silent auctions, Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday, offering by-appointment visits as well. Constantly modifying their programs and pivoting to meet with the needs and challenges of the times. They continue to focus on quality and forward thinking in their exhibits heading into 2021.
Below: Images shared from Stanek Gallery's website, Julia Levitina/ Fundamentals of Flight and Patrick Lee/ Inside Voices exhibited from March 5 - April 24, 2021; exterior Stanek Gallery
INTIMATE SPACES - MAY 7 - JUNE 26
Left to right: James Brantley, Ursula, 2020. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 24 inches; Treacy Ziegler, Like birds that get used to walking, ca. 2020. Oil and gold leaf composite on panel, 18 x 13.5 inches; Kathy Loev Putnam, Crazy Hat Dress Up, 2018. Oil, screen print, and mixed media collage on wood panel, 48 x 36 inches.
Philadelphia Galleries have overcome challenging times. Forging ahead, these galleries are worth a visit, each promising to offer either new direction, talent, or art in 2021 and beyond