Think Globally, Act Locally: Buy Local Art

By Shaw, Kurt | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 16, 2007 | Go to article overview

Think Globally, Act Locally: Buy Local Art


Shaw, Kurt, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Last weekend, the new Borelli-Edwards Galleries in Lawrenceville opened its doors to an enthusiastic crowd. A North Hills institution for 29 years, the gallery recently relocated from its spot on Perry Highway in McCandless after losing its lease.

About her search for a new location, gallery owner Joy Borelli- Edwards said earlier this month, "I realized that Lawrenceville was the center of the art world, so I decided to move the gallery there."

While that statement may make a Manhattan collector cringe, to Pittsburghers, it makes a whole lot of sense. Lawrenceville has seen a spate of galleries open in recent years, from the slick operations on Butler Street to the grassroots galleries on Hatfield Street. And openings at all of these galleries have been attended by a relatively large group of people, just as with openings in comparable neighborhoods.

For example, in the last year alone, two new galleries have opened in Sewickley, and two in Mt. Lebanon. And all of their opening events have been enthusiastically attended as well.

While there is no shortage of interest in art, or at least attending art openings, what is lacking at all of these galleries is a proportional number of sales resulting from these events. The stark reality is that Pittsburgh gallerygoers have no problem showing up for an art opening. But they seem to have a big problem with opening up their wallets to buy the art that they find there, nearly all of which created is by local artists. And with a failure rate higher than most businesses, these galleries have a very little chance for survival if the trend continues.

Pittsburgh is a middle-American city, culturally, but how does its art market fit into the national scene? Data on the numbers of artists and exhibition spaces in the 30 largest Metropolitan areas - - according to the 2005 Art in America Annual Guide to Galleries, Museums, Artists -- shows that Pittsburgh consistently falls within a group of comparable areas. For example, when the number of exhibition spaces in each urban area is analyzed, New York has about four times the total of the next largest market, Los Angeles, and over five times Chicago's total. …

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