Culture News

Inside Artist Geoffrey Gersten's New Gallery in Old Town Scottsdale

During a Thursday night art walk in April, people strolling through the Old Town Scottsdale, just west of Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, saw more than the Old West-inspired paintings and sculptures many people associate with the area.

Scottsdale artist Geoffrey Gersten, who creates his paintings and other works in a small studio space in Tempe, recently opened Gallerie Gersten in Old Town. Last week, passersby saw three pieces placed in the street-front windows – including a feline twist on the Mona Lisa, the video game character Mario sporting a gun, and a bright Batman foursome.

Located at 7008 East Main Street, Gallerie Gersten is situated within easy walking distance of Tilt Gallery. Gersten opened his gallery on February 16, and says more than 200 people attended the formal opening reception. Most were people he’d never met before.

The walls at Gallerie Gersten contain primarily the artists’ own works, many of which mix an offbeat sensibility Gersten calls “whimsical” with a nod to art history – reflecting what Gersten describes as his own “traditional training.” But a few other artists, including Tempe graffiti artist Such Styles, have works on view as well.

Several of Gersten’s works feature figures from pop-culture sources including comics and films placed within settings drawn from classic works by artists including Edward Hopper and René Magritte. One references a famed 1932 black and white photograph of 11 construction workers eating lunch on a beam 850 feet above the streets of Manhattan.

Gersten hadn’t set out to open his own gallery space because he always assumed it would be too costly.

But after seeing some “for lease” signs while walking through Old Town last December, he decided it couldn’t hurt to explore the idea. He passed on a space requiring a five-year lease, opting instead for a place he could lease for just a single year. But it still wasn’t cheap, Gersten says. “You could buy yourself a nice house with that money,” he says. “It was a spontaneous, reckless decision in some ways.”

Still, the timing felt right, Gersten says. “I used to be a starving artist, but I’m doing better lately.” And having the gallery seems to be paying off at this point. “I’ve sold a painting or giclée every day since opening,” Gersten says. “I was completely stunned.”

When sizing up the Old Town art scene, Gersten says a few other galleries carry whimsical work. “There are actually some amazing paintings, although some are freaking boring,” he says. “I get kind of tired of looking at Indian heads.”

He also has space at the White House Collective, located at 7105 East First Avenue, which bills itself as a hub for creatives, makers, and entrepreneurs. Gersten says he’s already done pop-up exhibitions there, most recently featuring works by Gilbert artist Justin Pierce. For the most part, Gersten says, he’ll show his own work at Gallerie Gersten, and present works by other artists at the other site – which he’s named Spectrum.

Gersten knows some will question his choice of location. “Everyone in Phoenix will be so offended,” he says.

Yet he’s unapologetic about leaving the Phoenix art scene, where his works have been exhibited at {9} The Gallery and other venues. “The Phoenix art scene sucks,” Gersten says. But it’s not because artists aren’t making good work. Instead, he says, it’s because too many people simply admire the art without actually buying it. “I’m a full-time artist, so it’s a matter of survival for me.”

So far, the move is working out, Gersten says. Visitors from other states and countries are visiting his gallery, he says, and leaving with works of art. “Random visitors from all over the world walk in and drop $3,000 to $5,000 and then they’re gone.” Works at Gallerie Gersten include everything from prints selling for about $50 or $60 to originals priced as high as $10,000.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble