This NYC gallery is only for artists who are at least 60 years old
The Carter Burden Gallery in Chelsea occupies a chic, modern space. Works that rotate on a monthly basis sell in a range from $200 to $9,000. An opening is held for each new exhibit of two or three artists working in a variety of media. The kicker is that every artist here has lived a minimum of six decades.
"Older adults do not stop being who they are because they hit a particular age," says gallery director Marlena Vaccaro. "Professional artists never stop doing what we do, and in many cases we get better at it as we go along."
Not many galleries are showing professional artists as they get older, unless they’re famous enough to command high prices, Vaccaro says. “Galleries are a business. They need to show artists that are going to bring in big bucks.”
But that doesn’t mean that older artists aren’t producing relevant, fresh work, and that’s where the Carter Burden steps in. The gallery is a nonprofit that originally sprang from the Carter Burden Center for the Aging, founded in 1971 to provide services, advocacy and volunteer programs. The gallery is funded by a corporate sponsor and various philanthropists. That way, they can choose artists without regard to how much their work might sell for.
Exhibitor Nieves Saab, 67, has painted since she was a child in Spain. She recalls her first show in SoHo where a few sales led to more than a dozen more gallery shows in one year. But interest waned as the decades passed. One day, she heard about the Carter Burden. A month after she applied, her fanciful, bright oil paintings graced the gallery walls.
The Carter Burden is only available for artists who live in New York. Up to 500 people may attend an opening, where wine, chocolate and pretzels accompany the visual feast. It’s a chance for artists to meet and visitors to munch and buy.
“It is community,” says Long Island artist Elisabeth Jacobsen, 68. For people who do most of their work alone in a studio or at home, it’s a chance to mingle and support each other. Jacobsen got a rejection letter the first time she applied to exhibit at the Carter Burden, but she tried again. These days, she’s a regular at the gallery with many sales under her belt.
Sculpture artist Werner Bargsten, 69, loves the camaraderie. “Most of the artists that I’ve met here seemed like they missed that memo that they were getting old,” he says. “Most of them have the brains of a 20-year-old or a 30-year-old or something. So they haven't really aged in terms of their spirit."
But is a gallery that bars everyone under 60 ageist in its own way?
"I think it's more a defense against ageism,” says director Vaccaro. “I think it's giving an opportunity to a group of people that have had the opportunity removed simply because of their age. Opportunities are few and far between at any gallery for any artist of any age, so I think we're trying to just right a wrong, rather than get in the way of anyone else having an opportunity."
“Carter Burden Gallery,” Carter Burden Gallery.
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