The Art Assassin

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang

Chapter 26: ASSASSINATION: Maren Bargreen, Director of Gallery MAR

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Maren Bargreen at Gallery MAR. Courtesy of the Park City Voyeur.
Matt Larson: Just Too Late, oil painting, 24 by 15 inches. Courtesy of Gallery MAR.

During the late summer last year, I had a chance to pop up in Park City, Utah to check out a few galleries up there with an ex-girlfriend who drove me up to the quaint setting. One of them had just opened up within a “shopping mall” setting called Gallery MAR. Apparently Ms. Maren Bargreen, who is originally from the Seattle area, had opened up her new space after she completed her stint as the director at Meyer Gallery. The timing could not be any better.

With her bold and progressive vision (shared only by the Julie Nester Gallery in my honest opinion), Bargreen has managed to move her gallery quickly to forefront of the Utah arts scene. Recently she was a featured gallery owner in the prestigious American Art Collector magazine. Balancing a program of innovative and conservative artwork, she is able to draw together a singular vision for celebrating nature, the figure, and a strong emphasis on ecological themes which ties her artist together into a cohesive exhibition. Also she has become a rather remarkable friend whom I had felt comfortable with, discussing her program and her exciting plans for the future within a rapidly changing Utah shifting away from its conservative roots.

If you have any questions about artwork at Gallery MAR, feel free to contact the space at info@gallerymar.com or at (435) 649-3001.

And now for the feature presentation you all been waiting for by THE ART ASSASSIN’s account of the “assassination”:

qi peng: What is a typical day at Gallery MAR like? What responsibilities do you have as the director and curator of the gallery? What is the history of your gallery since the summer of 2008? What things inspired you to open your space on Main Street in Park City, Utah?

Maren Bargreen: I do it all, six days a week! Everything from corresponding and working with artists, to bookkeeping, hanging, website maintenance and window washing. Oh, and selling artwork too. As the owner of the gallery, I do everything to keep my gallery going strong and my artists as successful as possible. I promote my artists and shows to discovery new collectors and fans. We have been open for nearly a year now, and our collector base is growing along with our stable of artists. The quality of work continues to develop, along with the range of talent and media. Opening the gallery was just a matter of timing, as it’s always been a passion of mine.

qi peng: How would you describe your curating style and underlying philosophy and approach to how your audience and collectors respond to the artwork? Do you believe that art must serve as a counterpoint to the stereotypes and hackneyed ideas that the everyday media presents?

Maren Bargreen: Because the gallery is in a tourist area, we welcome collectors from all over the country. I seek quality and accessible artwork that has that certain “spark,” It’s not always something that you can explain, but I find that artists who are passionate about their work, and don’t paint for viewer but rather for themselves, have stronger pieces. I find that artists, like any other field of workers, are all incredibly diverse in personality and style. Most of the stereotypes about artists are wrong… or right in a few instances!

qi peng: What is the story behind discovering such delightful artists such Fred Calleri, Matt Larson, and Mary Scrimgeour? With such a national focus, how does your gallery programming differ from the other galleries within the Park City location? How do you feel that the American contemporary art world be placed in the context of the international network?

Maren Bargreen: At this time, we do not exhibit work by international artists. However, in May I am visiting France and Greece and plan to seek out new artists in those countries. I’m very optimistic about what I may find. Fred Calleri’s work jumped out at me from the pages of an art magazine. I then went to see them in person, and in meeting Fred, found that we had an incredible connection. We just “get” each other and I am passionate about his work and diligence as an artist. I felt that same connection with Mary Scrimgeour and her work. They are light, humorous, and multi-dimensional. In these times, it’s refreshing to have artists who don’t take themselves too seriously and are painting what bring them joy.

qi peng: What sort of music do you enjoy playing during gallery hours and artists’ opening receptions? How does it create a mood for visitors and collectors to enjoy the work on the walls?

Maren Bargreen: At Gallery MAR we play, exclusively, classical music from a variety of time periods. I was raised in an environment where classical music and opera were played continuously.

qi peng: With the recent downturn in the American economy, have you seen any changes in how the galleries been able to interact with their audience? Can galleries afford to take a risk in curating riskier exhibitions during this period? Are you seeing collectors’ habits change within the Park City and Utah area as the banking and other financial sectors are suffering from various problems such as foreclosures?

Maren Bargreen: We have seen fewer tourists here in town over the last winter season. One gallery owner estimated she hadn’t seen it this slow in over 20 years. That’s an incredible difference. It is my theory that during these more difficult times, it is essential for my artists to produce the best work of their lives. To push themselves, experiment, and see what new areas they can explore. I think it’s important to keep things light and optimistic. There will always be collectors who want to have, who must have, artwork and beauty in their lives.

qi peng: What is your favorite online resources and art magazines or journals for checking out the latest art news scoop? Do you have any favorite tales from Gallery MAR you wish to share with your fans and column readers here? What are some hobbies that you enjoy outside of your work in the gallery? How does your gallery interact with its audience in the internet world? Do you feel that selling artwork will be more aligned with Internet-based sales or the white-box gallery physical setting?

Maren Bargreen: I visit The Art Newspaper, Artists of Utah, Coagula, ArtInfo, and a few others on a daily basis. I find that some of the most pertinent art news is found in publications not related to the arts specifically: W, Vanity Fair, etc. We’ve been fortunate to work with some young, emerging collectors this year, and those experiences have been my favorites. Assisting collectors for their first-time art buying experience can’t be matched. We find that having our gallery online has been essential, as we have so many collectors from out of state. They can read out monthly emailed newsletter, News MAR, read my online blog, and see the new shows and events on our Exhibitions page. I don’t think that the Internet will ever replace the storefront gallery, but it certainly does assist our collectors. Outside of the gallery, I enjoy skiing, travel, gallery hopping, reading, and occasionally painting. I’m in the gallery six days a week, so I’m lucky to love what I do.

qi peng: Do you have any advice for up and coming BFA and MFA graduates who are graduating from art school and are starting to hunt for galleries to show their artwork? Do you think that there are too many talented artists within the system than what the top galleries especially in Utah can handle? With the recent closures of galleries within the Utah art world such as Pickett Fairbanks Gallery, what trends are you seeing within the galleries and how they are presenting their work to the public? Do you see any trends within the established local museums such as the UMFA and The Kimball Art Center in how they are dealing with the recession?

Maren Bargreen: Just keep painting and producing! The more work you create, the better you will be. Ever heard of the 10,000 hour rule? Explore, live it, love it. There will always be room in galleries and collectors’ homes for exquisite, mind-blowing art. It’s just more competitive. I have yet to see major changes to the gallery scene in Park City. We have joined together as a very strong group with our Park City Gallery Association and so far the strolls have been electric. The KAC has a new Director who is going incredible things for them and for our town. It’s all about the right kind of leadership and energy for the non-profit art centers, and they have it now.

qi peng: What is your opinion about online curated galleries such as Collegeartonline (CAO) or Ugallery? In what ways is their exhibition style different than that of Gallery MAR? Any opinion on online artists registries such as White Columns or the Drawing Center? Any opinion on juried competitions such as New American Paintings? Which method is most important for a starting artist to get validation for the work that they execute?

Maren Bargreen: [no answer]

qi peng: What are some of your future dreams and upcoming exhibitions that Gallery MAR will be experiencing? What are some potential challenges or past hardships that your gallery have overcome and that you are proud of?

Maren Bargreen: We have an upcoming summer exhibition, celebrating our one year anniversary. We will feature local artists, a few of whom are new to the gallery. We will eventually expand to a bigger space, and have multiple locations. Our biggest challenge has been finding the true collectors in this economy. It’s a challenge that I hope to always face. Starting small, as we have, keeps us on our toes. I’m proud that our artists have continued to paint some of the best work of their lives, and I challenge them to push themselves in new directions.

qi peng: On a lighter note, do you have any favorite restaurants, hangouts, or cool places around Park City, Seattle, or Utah that you would like to recommend to fans of your gallery? What do you like best about the places that you have chosen?

Maren Bargreen: As a tourist destination, Park City brings some of the best chefs in the world to our area. I always recommend my favorite eats spot, Jean Louis, to gallery guests. Snowshoeing, skiing, outdoor concerts and hiking in the summer are some of my favorite activities. I love any opportunity to be outside in our area—it’s gorgeous here and we locals enjoy our summers. In Seattle, I like Chandler’s Crab House, the S.A.M., Benoroya Hall, Whidbey Island, and the San Juan Islands. The art community in Seattle is incredibly diverse and makes you realize how small Park City is!

qi peng: Apart from contemporary art, are there any other types of art from earlier movements that you enjoy? What are some highlighted pieces from your personal collection of artworks that you wish to share with your readers? How does your experience and wide-ranging knowledge of art history enhance your ability to find new pieces or artists that will have an impact in defining the arc of the future of artistic directions?

Maren Bargreen: I try to visit galleries and museums that have a divergent taste from my own, so that my ideas of art and trends are constantly challenged. I love learning from other gallerists and their artists. I appreciate mid-century modern works and some of my favorite all time painters are Rothko, Marcia Myers, Manet and Monet. I’m totally amused by Koons and Murakami and I think we have a lot to learn from them. In my personal collection, I have been fortunate to collect pieces by Brian Kershisnik (it’s really a portrait of me), a Seth Winegar harbor scene, a Candace Eisenfeld, a Carol Alleman Bronze, and several folk art and Native American pieces from Seattle.

qi peng: Before we embark on the last question, thanks very much for your time. Is there anything else that you wish to share with fans and viewers of your gallery or your artists that you represent?

Maren Bargreen: Thanks for the opportunity, Qi! I hope that gallery visitors will stop by, and stop by often. I love engaging in artistic discussion and answering questions about my artists. I particularly love working with emerging collectors and assisting them to build a collection that’s suited to their passions. I feel every honored to represent the artists that I do, and look forward to a successful future.

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at qipengart@gmail.com
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Written by qi peng

May 12, 2009 at 1:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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