Directly east of Space One Eleven Gallery, a new contemporary art gallery has opened downtown. It’s called Beta Pictoris and it’s the brainchild of Guido Maus (you can view the gallery website here). The shot above shows the storefront on the 2400 block of Second Avenue North.
Guido moved to Birmingham 5-1/2 years ago from New York City (he is Belgian). He ran furniture galleries in Tribeca before his wife, an expert in antique furniture restoration, was lured to Birmingham to help the Museum of Art with their collection. After a furniture venture here, Guido decided to follow one of his dreams and open up a fine art gallery, showing both local and national artists. His first show exhibited both Birmingham and New York artists, and according to Guido, “visitors couldn’t tell the difference.” He is interested in upending this notion of “local” vs. “national” art, to establish dialogs through visual art.
This interest in dialog is why his current show is so spot on. Entitled “Dazzling”, it exhibits photography by local artist Sonja Rieger (the example here is “Kitti Smoking” and the image is courtesy Sonja Rieger and beta pictoris gallery). Sonja photographed drag queens while they were gathered at a large, African-American drag event in Birmingham’s west side. Close to 500 people turned out for the opening night of this show, and, according to Guido, provocative discussion was everywhere.
“Art should provoke discussion, not just look pleasing.”–Guido Maus
Guido feels there is a vibrant art scene in Birmingham, but no vibrant art market. This is why so many galleries are forced to sell art that “looks pretty” and is acceptable to interior decorators–and that’s fine; there’s a place for that. But Guido feels there’s also room to support other artists who are stretching the boundaries beyond what is just pretty, towards what is provocative.
I have long felt that urban areas must have artists and art in order to be truly vibrant. This city could do a much better job of offering incentives for artists to relocate here, for galleries to open and flourish, for public art programs. In the meantime, kudos to Guido for sticking with the Magic City and choosing to take a risk that a provocative, intellectual approach to art can work here. His small gallery is just a start; he’d like to open a much larger space suitable for large exhibitions, artists-in-residence, etc. Mark your calendars for his next opening Friday May 28!
Finally, a brief note about the pic at the top of the post: Space One Eleven, the neighboring gallery, has put together a great piece of urban “public” art, utilizing street trees, storefront windows, and yes, broken parking meters. I’m only half-joking when I suggest we may have finally found a solution to repairing the vast number of broken meters across this city!