The G. H. Dalsheimer Gallery, one of the two highest-profile fine arts galleries in Baltimore, will close in April after almost 10 years of operation on North Charles Street.
In a letter sent to patrons yesterday, gallery owner George H. Dalsheimer cited his desire to "move on to other areas of interest" as the main reason for the closing.
In an interview yesterday, he said, "It was not a decision that was easy to make. It makes me sad."
Although both he and gallery director Robin Coplan said the decision had nothing to do with the economy, they conceded that the print market -- which accounts for 90 percent of the gallery's business -- had recently "taken a dip," in Ms. Coplan's words.
Along with prints, the gallery showed drawings, paintings andphotographs by local and nationally known artists.
To stay open, Ms. Coplan said, the gallery would have to move in the direction of displaying more unique pieces -- such as paintings and sculpture -- and more work by major artists.
"I don't know if the city would support that," she said, adding that such an approach would put Dalsheimer in direct competition with the C. Grimaldis Gallery, generally
regarded as the city's leading commercial art gallery.
"We are not in a position to go head to head with Costas [gallery owner Constantine Grimaldis]," she explained.
The Dalsheimer closing, coming less than two years after the closing of the George Ciscle Gallery, represents another serious blow to the commercial art scene in Baltimore.
Mr. Grimaldis called the closing "a damn disaster" for Baltimore, "a huge loss for the art community in the city. Four years ago we looked like we were going to be an art town, and now we are looking to be a ghost town."
He said the economy is partly to blame for the situation, but he also faulted the Baltimore Museum of Art for not giving more support to area galleries.
"We have no support from the museum for what we do," he said. "They could at least say to people, 'There is a good show there.'"
Ninety percent of sales at Dalsheimer's came from outside of the city, Ms. Coplan added, saying that if she'd had to depend on Baltimore business, "I'd have starved."
Lynn O'Sullivan, director of the Knight Gomez Gallery and a formeremployee of the Dalsheimer, called the closing "a great loss to Baltimore."
Aside from her personal sadness, she said, the closing will make other galleries "feel a lot of pressure" to show local artists. "There's a tremendous number of artists, and one less gallery puts more pressure on others. We need more galleries, not fewer."
Mr. Dalsheimer, 58, was not specific about his plans but said, "I would guess I'll do something involved with education." Before opening his gallery, he was a science teacher at Park School for 20 years and was principal of the upper school during his last three years there.
He also is a major collector of photography. Two years ago he gave and sold his collection of some 700 images -- valued then at $2.5 million -- to the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Speaking of his decision to close the gallery, he said: "I've been thinking about it for well over a year. Even when I taught school I worked in cycles, and when I opened I didn't know whether I was committed for life. I think what the gallery has done has been important, but I did not want to stay in the retail business at 58."
The enterprise began as a photography gallery in September 1981 at smaller quarters at 519 N. Charles St., then moved to its present home at 336 N. Charles St. in December 1985.
The move coincided with a lessening of emphasis on photography and a branching out into prints, painting, sculpture and, for a time, crafts.
Both the owner and the director expressed pride yesterday in the gallery's achievements over the past 10 years.