A HOME FOR BEAUTY
Squirrel Hill may not be recognized as the arts center of the city of Pittsburgh, but there is a bright gem hidden among the coffee shops, restaurants, and clothing stores along Forbes Avenue. An enclave for arts of all kinds, though most noted for the captivating paintings adorning the front window, the Christine Frechard Gallery hosts artists from around the world.
When I met with Christine, the gallery walls held acrylic paintings and vivid watercolors from renowned Indian artist, Suman Gupta. His beautiful works, a form of magical realism, draw the viewer in with their details. My favorite featured a swarm of butterflies dancing on a bare river bank behind a boy gathering lotus flowers. In another stunning piece, a horse materializes from a blanket of multilayered darkness.
“I think art is my real love story,” Christine said to me, gesturing around the gallery. “It’s my spirit in here, my passion for art.” A self taught art critic and curator, Christine opened her gallery in 2009, at the height of the recession. “That was the worst time to open an art gallery, especially with hardly any collector support.” She began by exhibiting the works of local Pittsburgh artists, such as the upcoming Fritz Keck show, before branching out across the states and internationally. Now, she regularly hosts a mix of art from everywhere, including a special collection of African art and a private collection of more famous artists.
“Every five weeks, I change the show,” Christine explained when I asked. Sometimes, they simply adorn the walls with their exhibition. In other cases, they change the space to suit their pieces. When the team for Peter Max arrived with his work last week, they installed freestanding walls and even rewired the lighting to suit their artist. It all depends on the desires and demands of the artist. Peter Max’s show ends Sunday with personal appearences on Friday and Saturday, plus a children’s even Saturday morning.
Chistine always hosts these art talks with her artists, such as the evening with Suman and his wife in late September. Usually a casual affair with wine, cheese, and good company, these talks allow the artist to delve into their techniques and gives guests the chance to ask questions. Each event is free and open to everyone, but an RSVP is preferred. Visit the website to sign up for email updates.
Though she has hosted famous artists from around the world, Christine strongly believes the purpose of a gallery curator is promote the work of up-and-coming artists. She described it best:
“People hunt for fame; a Picasso or Matisse. They will spend a fortune to have an autograph of these masters. I think it’s time for us to move on and promote the strength and beauty of newcomers. And I think to do a good job as a gallerist, you need to have the eyes to find the gem you want to launch into the world. In order for them to be recognized after the show; to recommend them to another gallery; to eventually offer them an article in Art News . This is primarily what we should be about.”
Her goal, of course, is to sell the artwork she curates. Prices vary from piece to piece, but their value is beyond monetary measure. They can energize a space and inspire the viewer as well as beautify. “Don’t wait to have money to buy art, otherwise you never do,” Christine explains emphatically. “It’s a question of what you have your heart to.” She often discounts the most expensive pieces for the sake of finding homes for the artwork. She also offers free layaway, allowing customers to pay overtime. Owning great art is within all of our grasps!
“I cannot conceive to live without artwork around me,” Christine said, looking lovingly at the pieces around her. “It doesn’t matter if you are educated in art, if you have art appreciation. I think a gifted artist has a gift from the gods. He has a gift from above. A piece that is well done speaks for itself.”
The gallery’s contribution to the arts does not stop with paintings and sculpture. The space often hosts dance performances, tarot readings, jazz concerts, and even language classes after hours. Current offerings include Mandarin, Spanish, French, and now Hebrew. Sessions are 10 weeks long. The gallery space can even be rented for personal, family, or corporate events! Contact the Gallery directly for questions on these events and more. Better yet, stop in and explore! Christine and her employees are warm and welcoming, wanting to share the beauty of art with everyone. “People seem to be afraid to walk into galleries. Don’t be! Come in, look at the pieces. That is why we are here.”
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