100 Creatives

Bentley Calverley on Her Favorite Bentley Gallery Art Show Ever

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 9. Bentley Calverley.

Bentley Calverley has been drawn to art always.

The gallerist grew up in New Jersey, and as a preteen she'd take the train or bus into New York to visit galleries and museums. An exceptionally tall kid (she hit 5-foot-8 by the age of 9), Calverley's mother dressed her in a hat and gloves for such trips. "No one knew I was just a kid," she says. 

Eventually, her love of art led to collecting and then representing a few artists. "Then I began putting together exhibitions for smaller galleries, leasing the shows for a month to a month and a half at a time," she says. "Eventually I opened my own gallery."

That was 1984, and the art space was Bentley Gallery. Located in Scottsdale, it garnered a reputation as a premier Southwest destination for contemporary works. In 2004, Calverley opened a warehouse space, Bentley Projects, in Phoenix. She relocated all the gallery operations to that oversize facility in 2012. 

With about 45 years in the art business, Calverley still finds fun in it — though the hat-and-gloves uniform of her youth has since fallen by the wayside.

Finding inspiration in "beauty and initiative," she says there's always something new to see, discuss, and sometimes show. "When people ask what I do for a living I sometimes say gallerist and sometimes say den mother," Calverley says. 

When considering many shows and artists she's featured, Calverley easily names the highlight: when Pat Steir painted the Bentley Gallery walls as an installation piece. "Two vast walls became enormous Pat Steir pieces," she recalls. "When Bentley Projects was remodeled a few years later, we saved one of the paintings by excising the struts, wallboard and all, and relocated it to a prominent spot on the property."

Though there's plenty to look back on, there's more work to be done.

Calverley's working on developing new exhibition for her current roster of artists  — and working with artists who are new to the gallery. "More than any other time in recent history, Bentley Gallery is taking on new emerging and established artists whose innovative works I am thrilled to share with our audience," she says. "This is the most rewarding part of what I do."

I came to Phoenix for a seminar about philanthropy at The Boulders put on by US Trust, and came back the next week and bought a second home.

I make art because... I don’t because I don’t have the talent. My father got me art lessons when I was in elementary school and after the first class the teacher told my father to save his money. So, I get to be in the art world as a gallerist. Artists have taught me to see the world through creative eyes, not necessarily the practical eyes my parents gave me. Artists have fewer to no limits, which is something we should all embrace.

I'm most productive when it’s quiet and I can think, or when I have a deadline.

My inspiration wall is full of every imaginable type of art and from every era. Whether a Caravaggio or a Clyfford Still, a 5,000-year-old Chinese bi or the latest Atelier Zobel brooch, my experience is that beauty goes with beauty. I save everything – forever. It’s a sickness. But, even after years and years, I would still be delighted to have any of the items on my wall. They just never seem to date themselves. Beauty is timeless and my wall proves it.

I've learned most from asking questions of artists, collectors, and other dealers. I’m always looking and reading.

Good work should always be well-crafted and represent what the artist wants to achieve, not what he or she was able to achieve. I also look for timelessness. If a piece can make my heart go faster or make my shoulders relax, I know it’s better than good.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more full-time galleries. There’s a reason the big three car makers locate their showrooms next to each other. I was alone in the Warehouse District for a long time, and now there are talented ASU art school graduate students just down the street. You can see more art in the three blocks around Bentley Gallery than any other area of the city.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak
73. Rachel Egboro
72. Rosemary Close
71. Ally Haynes-Hamblen
70. Alex Ozers
69. Fawn DeViney
68. Laura Dragon
67. Stephanie Neiheisel
66. Michael Lanier
65. Jessica Rajko
64. Velma Kee Craig
63. Oliver Hibert
62. Joya Scott
61. Raji Ganesan
60. Ashlee Molina
59. Myrlin Hepworth
58. Amy Ettinger
57. Sheila Grinell
56. Forrest Solis
55. Mary Meyer
54. Robert Hoekman Jr.
53. Joan Waters
52. Gabriela Muñoz
51. ColorOrgy
50. Liz Magura
49. Anita and Sam Means
48. Liz Ann Hewett
47. Tiffany Fairall
46. Vanessa Davidson
45. Michelle Dock
44. Nia Witherspoon
43. Monique Sandoval
42. Nayon Iovino
41. Daniel Davisson
40. Andrew King
39. Michelle Moyer
38. Jimmy Nguyen
37. Tiffany Lopez
36. Kristin Bauer
35. Donna Isaac
34. Douglas Miles
33. Sierra Joy
32. Francisco Flores
31. Amy Robinson
30. Julio Cesar Morales
29. Duane Daniels
28. Kelsey Pinckney
27. Ben Smith
26. Rembrandt Quiballo
25. Corinne Geertsen
24. Tess Mosko Scherer
23. Slawomir Wozniak
22. Elly Finzer
21. Josh Brizuela
20. Amy K. Nichols
19. Angela Johnson
18. Grant Vetter
17. Michelle and Melanie Craven
16. Erick Biez
15. Leah Marche
14. Lisa Von Hoffner
13. Amada Cruz
12. Amber Robins
11. Xandriss
10. Steven Tepper
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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski