Thursday, February 17, 2011

Goodnight Gallery (Babble)

I remember years ago telling my friend, Linda, how much I enjoyed reading Goodnight Moon to Aden from the same copy that was read to me.  Linda’s children are much older than my own, and she smiled as I talked, and then she said, “Oh, Goodnight Moon.  You never know while it’s happening when you are reading it for the last time.” 

That thought has stayed with me more powerfully than almost any quote I’ve ever come across.  It encapsulates so much of what it means to raise children.  There is so much joy and chaos and repetition and change, and just as you think some routine or quirk or circumstance will continue indefinitely, it ends, usually without fanfare or notice.  One day the baby is sucking his fingers incessantly, and the next he stops, and eventually it’s hard to remember it was ever a concern.  Despite thousands of digital photographs and home videos much of what is ending goes undocumented.  We often don’t get the benefit of acknowledging certain endings, because it just happens that one day you stop pulling Goodnight Moon off the shelf.

But some goodbyes are very clear and planned for.  This Valentine’s Day was one such ending for our family.  My parents owned and operated their own art gallery in a suburb of Detroit for nearly all of my life.  The Arnold Klein Gallery opened on Valentine’s Day in 1971, and 40 years to the day it officially closed its doors.  It was time, because my mom is ready to move on to other projects, and both my parents deserve more freedom in their schedules after so many years of running their own business, but their contribution to the area will be missed.
What the Arnold Klein Gallery managed to do was special, and a great inspiration to me and how I run my own storeMy parents were not good business people in the sense that they generated wealth.  Money is important and you need enough to support yourself and your family, but beyond that I don’t think it is the measure of success in a business.  My parents struggled along with everyone else in Detroit as fluctuations in the auto industry dragged all commerce up and down.  That my mom and dad kept an art gallery viable for 40 years is amazing. 

But what is more amazing is that they stayed in business that long while being honest and compassionate in a field that often isn’t.  My parents love art.  They care about conserving things that are beautiful and encouraging fellow artists to create.  Those ideals always meant more than money.  The Arnold Klein Gallery was a place where you could get trustworthy appraisals, a perfect archival framing job, and see some of the finest work currently being produced in the area alongside stunning prints from the past.  It was a place that cared about art and artists in a way I’ve never seen anyplace else.  It was unique, just like my parents.

All the preparations for the final show were a great deal of fun.  For a bittersweet occasion I have to say we laughed a lot.  Both my brothers and their families were there, along with my family and a couple of cousins and an aunt and uncle and the world’s cutest dog.  Everyone helped to hang things from the walls and ceiling and make decorations.

It looked great.  It was fun without being too silly.

This was the wall of gallery memorabilia, complete with announcements from past shows, photos, articles, and portraits of my parents done by Donella Vogel:
The final show of art was interesting.  My dad had in mind back when he first opened the gallery that one day when they closed he wanted to have a show of canceled prints and lithographs.  Back in the 1800’s when most of the etchings he had on display were made, artists would finish an edition by crossing it out and producing one more (usually unsigned) to prove it was concluded and to prevent others in the future from possibly trying to print additional copies and pass them off as part of the original set.  In my dad’s words he saw it as a show of, “Canceled etchings, canceled prints, canceled gallery.”

And then there was the big wall of Valentines.  There were hundreds of handmade Valentines so that anyone who wanted to could simply take one home with them to remember the gallery by.

The party on Valentine’s Day was a big success.  We couldn’t have asked for a nicer send off.  The place was packed with people there to say goodbye to the gallery and wish my parents well.  It was funny talking to so many people who still remember me at my children’s ages.  I played viola for background music.  My brother, Barrett, showed a 16 minute movie he made of interviews with my parents about their 40 years in business that was touching and funny.  My sister-in-law, Deepanjana, graciously served the wine all night.  The kids wove in and out through the crowds to help themselves to cookies and crackers.  The food was fabulous.  My mom baked cookies, but I couldn’t believe how many friends brought dishes to share.

In the end what makes things important is people.  I love that my parents worked in the gallery together.  I enjoyed playing in the gallery with my brothers growing up.  Watching my own children and their cousin running around that same space was extremely moving to me.  There was a lot of love and affection in the Arnold Klein Gallery.  Valentine’s Day could not have been a more perfect occasion to associate with it.  Here are some of the people I love best in the world who helped make the closing night of the Arnold Klein Gallery one I will always remember fondly:
Driving away the day after Valentine’s Day knowing I’d never step foot in the gallery again was surreal.  There is still a lot of hard work for my mom and my brother to do getting it closed down and cleared out, but for me it’s over.  The next time I go to Michigan the gallery won’t be there to visit.  From the moment I drove away it began an existence of pure memories.  And they are good ones.


Goodnight gallery.

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