Small galleries have big impact on arts community


March 09, 2000|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

Baltimore may not have New York's reputation as an art center but it has a rich history of nurturing artists and celebrating their works -- a legacy reflected in its small but vibrant network of commercial galleries and institutional exhibition spaces.

Indeed, a good case can be made that the arts in Baltimore enjoy a prominence out of all proportion to the city's relatively modest population of about 650,000.

How many other cities of that size can boast the presence of two world-class art museums (the Walters Art Gallery and the Baltimore Museum of Art), one of the country's top art schools (the Maryland Institute, College of Art), plus a prime location on the Boston-Washington corridor that makes it an extremely attractive place for artists to live and work?

The presence of MICA means that top artists and art students from all over the world converge here to teach and study. Most of them exhibit here at least sometime during their tenure in the city, and many art students remain in the region after graduation, helping to fuel a lively local arts scene oriented toward innovation and experimentation.

For all these reasons, Baltimore's art galleries have plenty of talent to choose from. Some galleries showcase nationally and internationally known artists, others focus on established regional and local artists and still others feature emerging young artists. Novice collectors can find a surprisingly broad range of styles and prices in these galleries.

Below is a guide to a dozen of the most active commercial galleries, including descriptions of the general type of work they feature, the artists they represent and the general price range of works for sale.

C. Grimaldis Gallery, 523 N. Charles St.

Founded in 1977 by Constantine Grimaldis, this downtown gallery is one of the city's premier venues for contemporary art that reflects current trends in the national and international art world. It's also a showcase for works of important regional artists who have achieved renown in their field.

"We are the oldest contemporary art gallery in Baltimore," says Grimaldis. "We started when none of the galleries today existed, and we introduced regional art as well as nationally and internationally acclaimed artists."

Over the years Grimaldis' program has included major exhibitions and scholarly publications. Among the artists represented by the gallery are painters Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Alice Neel, Hans Hoffman, Grace Hartigan, Eugene Leake and Raoul Middleman.

Grimaldis has an internationally acclaimed roster of sculptors that includes Ulrich Ruchriem, John Van Alstine, John Ruppert and Jon Isherwood.

The gallery's most recent show was a retrospective of the work of Cuban photographers Alberto Korda and Jose Figueroa, whose pictures document four decades of Fidel Castro's revolution.

Prices range from under $1,000 for prints, photographs and drawings to more than six figures for major paintings and sculpture.

Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5: 30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. For more information, call 410-539-1080.

Gomez Gallery, Meadow Mill, 3600 Clipper Mill Road, Suite 100

Founded in 1988 by owner Walter Gomez, the Gomez Gallery focuses on mid-career local and international artists, with emphasis on contemporary Latin American artists.

Among the artists the gallery currently represents are Chilean multimedia artist Soledad Salame and Baltimore photographer Connie Imboden. "I've tried to bring to Baltimore as varied a group of artists as I can," says Gomez, who before starting the gallery was director of framing at the now defunct Dalsheimer Gallery in Baltimore.

Gomez says the gallery has a strong educational mission. This spring, for example, it will sponsor a lecture by leading Latin American art scholar Edward Sullivan in conjunction with the opening of its Soledad Salame exhibition.

The gallery has also entered the secondary art market, reselling works by recognized artists that are offered for sale. The first work offered will be a drawing by Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

Prices range from several hundred dollars for photographs, prints and drawings to $50,000 for a major installation or sculpture.

Hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sundays noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call 410-662-9510 or visit the Web site at

Galerie Francoise, 2360 W. Joppa Road, Lutherville

Featuring modern and contemporary paintings and sculpture, this 10-year-old Lutherville gallery offers an eclectic mix of works by local and nationally recognized artists, selected according to the personal taste of owner-founder Mary Jo Gordon.

Currently, the gallery is showing paintings and sculpture by contemporary African-American artist Chevelle Makeba Moore Jones.

Other artists represented include painter Herman Meril and sculptors Phillip Estlund and Cynthia Eguez.

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