If you need proof that Richmond's visual arts scene is thriving, look no further than the two new art galleries that opened here in recent weeks. Chasen Galleries of Virginia in Carytown and Aquiles Adler Gallery on Broad Street downtown are both banking on the fact that Richmonders want to look at art both in a gallery setting and on the walls of their living rooms. But the similarities end there the two galleries are as different as Michelangelo and Magritte, pointing to the great diversity of art in Richmond.
Ed and Andrew Chasen opened Chasen Galleries of Virginia this fall after vacationing here in July. "We were visiting family," says Ed. "We found that there were no fine art galleries of our caliber here in Richmond," Andrew interjects. While Richmond's many existing art galleries may disagree with this assessment, it's a safe bet to say that Chasen Galleries is unique in the breadth and scope of artists represented. The gallery offers one-stop art shopping everything from art glass bowls and large abstract paintings to sedate landscapes and brightly colored "whimsical" art.
The couple, owners of Chasen Galleries of Sarasota in Florida for the past five years, wasted no time in bringing their concept to Richmond. Andrew, who was familiar with Richmond, knew Carytown was a prime location and when he found out the building at 3554 W. Cary St. was available, he and Ed made the decision to pack up and move north even though they had just purchased a new boat and redecorated their Florida home.
"You can definitely say we're not procrastinators," Ed says. And that's an understatement the Chasens ended their Richmond vacation on July 14 then moved here permanently on Aug. 8.
Chasen Galleries, which represents 66 artists from all over the world and maintains a 400-page Web site at www.ChasenGalleries.com, is all about selling art, although Andrew is quick to say that "we're not used car salesmen. If you buy, you buy. If you just want to come in and spend all day looking, that's fine, too."
The Gallery will showcase the work of one artist per month this month it's New Jersey painter Joanne Miller Rafferty and although it carries the work of only one local artist so far, Ed says they plan to add more Richmonders to their roster.
Aquiles Adler Gallery, on the other hand, has no shortage of local art, primarily from Frederick Chiriboga, who with his wife Birte Christensen, opened the gallery Nov. 5 after more than a year of renovations and frustrations with city building codes and regulations.
When the couple finally received a certificate of occupancy for the 1888 building at 228 W. Broad St. in late October, they shifted into high gear to mount their first show in time for November's "First Friday" openings. Luckily they had a large stash of Chiriboga's surrealistic paintings from which to choose. In January, Aquiles Adler will feature a show of Chiriboga's sculpture.
But Aquiles Adler Gallery is more than a self-indulgent showcase for Chiriboga's work. The couple plans to feature work from other Richmond artists and hopes that by using the Internet, they can link up with artists in other parts of the country. Any artist would be pleased to exhibit her work in Aquiles Adler's attractive, bright, open gallery space. Its proximity to 1708, Artspace and Corporate and Museum Frame also virtually ensures a large attendance during opening night festivities.
"There are so many good artists in Richmond who are not involved with the existing galleries," Chiriboga says. "There are some lone wolves out there and we intend to show them."
The gallery represents the culmination of a longtime dream for the couple. Christensen, who has owned the Carriage House Book Store on Harrison Street in the Fan since 1972 as well as other small businesses, recently turned over the reins of the business to her daughter so that she could concentrate on the gallery. "This is something I've wanted to do when I got everything else squared away," she says.
She is grateful to galleries such as 1708, Artspace and Coincidence Gallery, which have shared mailing lists and information on the ins and outs of the art business with her. And while she knows that "very few people make money selling art," she's willing to do all it takes to build a successful art