The entrance to the new Lisa Sette Gallery requires a small descent. It's exciting approaching the semi-subterranean Al Beadle building on Catalina Drive just west of Third Street. Excuse the rather obvious metaphor, but coming into the space really does feel a bit like discovering a treasure buried just below the surface of the earth.
Still, if I could choose just one word to describe the new gallery, I would call it elevated.
This spring, after a 28 years in downtown Scottsdale, Lisa Sette decided to relocate her esteemed contemporary art gallery to midtown Phoenix. The new gallery opened last weekend with "Hello Midtown!", a group show with work spanning a variety of media. The exhibition is excellent, but the space itself is of equal interest for this inaugural show.
The wood floors of the old Sette Gallery have been replaced by sleek concrete in the new space. The roof is a white corrugated metal with beams that partition the gallery into separate areas. Instead of consisting of a single large room as before, the gallery now includes a small enclosed space in the middle of the larger gallery, which creates a more circular viewing path -- it's impossible to see all of the art at once as before.
This small room in the center of the gallery is the clear star of the new space. In the future, the room could be the ideal place to host video works, but for the current exhibition "Hello Midtown!" the room houses a sculptural piece by Kim Cridler called Bottle with Blue Birds (2014). The piece is a large vase-shaped metal work adorned with small blue birds. Sette allegedly requested an additional bird from the artist to hang on the wall, effectively activating the space and creating a small oasis in the midst of the larger exhibition (the shafts of light coming in from the ceiling are a nice touch as well).
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Sette has traded in the large window at the front of the old gallery on Marshall Way for a series of clerestory windows surrounding the top of the Beadle building. In press releases from the gallery, much has been made of the light scrim covering these windows, but Saturday's daytime opening was not the ideal time to showcase the scrim's full potential. It looks most impressive at night, when it becomes illuminated by the interior glow of the gallery, setting the stage for what lies within.
Still, the architecture of the building does more than enough mood-setting on its own. The new space is all about sophistication. Lisa Sette Gallery has long been a place to find exquisite art, and now that art has truly found a worthy home.
"Hello Midtown!" will be on view through the summer, and a grand opening is planned for the fall. Lisa Sette Gallery is open from Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit lisasettegallery.com.