Anna Kaplan expands the gallery scene
It takes all sorts of commercial art spaces to cultivate a thriving artist community. Scrappy artist-run collectives, entry level mixed-use retail spaces, restaurant exhibit areas, and discerning storefront galleries all serve unique functions in sustaining a variety of artists from postgraduate novices to experienced veterans. Buffalo has seen a spurt of gallery activity in recent years, and now former Albright-Knox curatorial assistant and Daemen College adjunct professor Anna Kaplan is adding something new to the mix.
In June, Kaplan will open the Body of Trade and Commerce (BT&C) Gallery in a renovated building at 1250 Niagara Street. An inaugural exhibition held in a temporary space on Rhode Island Street with work by Amanda Besl, Millie Chen, Dennis Maher, and Julian Montague concluded March 1. The Niagara Street space will have the appearance and trappings of a New York gallery and will benefit from the several other businesses that are also opening nearby, including the adjacent Resurgence Brewing Company and the art collective Sugar City across the street. But a glossy space and good vibe is only part of what characterizes Kaplan’s plans. The gallerist frequently uses the word “project” in referring to her venture, and she peppers her conversation with words like “strategy” and “mission.” She’s even putting together an advisory committee to guide and support her efforts. The physical gallery is just part of a bigger endeavor that includes vigorous promotion of a carefully selected stable of artists in markets outside of Buffalo. “I’m working now on a couple of projects, one in Rochester and one in Toronto,” says Kaplan. She also intends to enter national art fairs.
The four artists in the Rhode Island exhibition are the first she’s representing. “I intentionally started with this small group,” Kaplan explains. “I have to provide a service and I don’t want to overextend myself. It’s difficult though, because there’s so much great art happening here.” Her plans also include bringing artists from other cities into Buffalo’s market.
Selling art in Buffalo, especially costlier art, is notably challenging. Kaplan plans to utilize her network and extensive knowledge of the New York art scene to develop a more robust market here. This includes educating the existing collector base and fostering a new group of younger collectors. The fledging gallerist expresses tremendous admiration for Nina Freudenheim, whose commercial gallery has long exhibited noted artists at the upper end of the market. She is also mindful of the important role other area galleries play. “I see the gallery scene in Allentown [for instance] as being really essential to our city,” says Kaplan. “I have the utmost respect for what’s going on there and I think it’s an important destination.” However, she sees her BT&C project as something apart from what already exists.
“I really feel like Buffalo is the perfect place for me to launch this project,” the gallerist concludes. “I don’t think I could have done this in New York or Chicago, or anywhere else. Once I involve artists from other areas and reach out to other markets, it brings the whole operation to another level that will inevitably benefit everybody.”