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Bentley Gallery to Downsize Art Space in Phoenix's Warehouse District

Bentley Gallery officials announced Monday, June 1, that it’ s planning a “major restructure” that involves “dramatically changing its facility.”

Brian Stark of StarkJames, LLC is spearheading the design of a new exhibition space within the existing 25,000-square-foot facility. The Scottsdale-based architectural firm designed Lisa Sette Gallery within a historic Al Beadle building in midtown Phoenix. StarkJames' current projects include Containers on Grand, a residential complex being created at Grand and 12th Avenues with repurposed shipping containers.

The new exhibition space will be about 6,000 square feet, less than half of the 14,315 square feet it currently covers. It’s expected to be completed by late summer, according to Bentley Gallery director John Reyes. To get a better perspective on the whole issue of size, consider that Lisa Sette Gallery is 3,500 square feet. Wayne Rainey’s monOrchid, a repurposed 1937 warehouse, has 14,000 square feet. Before Bentley Projects moved to Phoenix's warehouse district in 2012, Bentley Gallery's location in downtown Scottsdale was 4,000 square feet.

Bentley Gallery’s press release announcing the change references two factors: a desire to create a more intimate space for showing artwork and a shift in art buyer behavior.

“Art collectors today expect galleries to have a robust online presence as more and more sales are moving to the Internet,” gallery owner Bentley Calverley says in her release. She notes that “online trade is expected to more than double by 2018,” adding that the trend “has altered the way we do business.”

The remaining space is being repurposed as a special events venue called Warehouse 215, which Bentley Gallery will use at times but also make available for others to rent, says Reyes. It’s an idea he says Calverley first conceived when moving the gallery from Scottsdale to its present location. Public notices currently posted on an exterior gate reveal that Bentley Projects has applications pending with the City of Phoenix for both a zoning adjustment and a liquor license.

When asked whether economic factors were at play, Reyes merely noted in a general way that economics are always a factor. Like others, he says, Bentley Gallery is looking for new ways to get artists’ work in front of collectors.

The release cites a survey of collectors who use the social media platform Instagram, which revealed that half these collectors purchased works from artists they originally discovered through the picture-sharing platform.

But Reyes shared another strategy when we paid a visit to the gallery on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 2, explaining that they’re planning to increase their participation in art fairs. Currently they show at the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair and Silicon Valley Contemporary, but Reyes expects they’ll add at least two more shows that he’s not ready to name at this point.

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“Everybody is looking for the new benefactors,” Reyes says.

Reyes says some people are reticent to visit the gallery given its location “south of the tracks.” As foot traffic has decreased, and online sales have grown, the need for brick-and-mortar exhibition space has declined, he says. And there’s another factor, too. Once Bentley Gallery carried significantly larger works, including sculptures, which needed more space. Today, says Reyes, they’re exhibiting more paintings, which simply don’t require as much room.

The gallery will be closed during the month of July and reopen on August 1, according to the press release, which also notes that construction of the new space will be complete by late summer. Watch the Bentley Gallery website and Facebook page for updates, given the fact that construction and redesign of any kind are notorious for shifting timelines.

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