New Art Gallery Opens – New Show Set Sept. 20by Ben McNitt on Aug. 13, 2009, under arts
DEFYING CONVENTION SEEMS TO RUN IN HENRY EL KAIM’S BLOOD.
Born in Casablanca, he found himself in Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War. A Jew, he befriended Palestinians.
Now, a decade-long Tucson resident, el Kaim is defying convention again. He’s opened a new art gallery in the face of an economic downturn not rivaled since the Great Depression.
On meeting him – as I did on a recent visit to Gallery 2402 at the same address on Campbell just north of Grant – this all makes perfect sense. El Kaim is a big man – big in the sense of the spirit. His smiles, gestures, language, movements all bespeak an enthusiastic thirst for life.
“I bring people together,” he says. “I’m a unifier, not a divider.”
For several years he’s successfully run the Artists at Work gallery, next door to 2402, where he welcomingly displayes work by fellow artists. But he found nearly all the sales are of his own pieces, including stained glass work, often priced quite modestly.
“We needed a big space,” he says. “After a lot of thought, I came to the conclusion that art flows through me and if I was going to sink or float it might as well be in something that makes me want to get up in the morning.” Thus Gallery 2402.
El Kaim was joined in the new venture by woodworker George Hubbard.
The opening gala a couple of months ago was a smash hit, but business has been thin since then. A new show featuring 14 Tucson artists is set to open with a reception September 20.
As we spoke, artist George Shively came by to drop off some of his pieces selected for the new show. “I love the idea of this gallery opening,” he said. “Your work has to keep in circulation even in the worst of times. No matter what, my job is to keep creating a body of work and keep growing as an artist. This gallery helps me do that.”
Instead of the normal 50 percent commission, Gallery 2402 gives 75 percent of the sale price to the artist. “We try to be flexible,” el Kaim says.
Chris Zabramny, who was a theatre designer in Poland before moving to Tucson with her husband in 1997, also stopped by. She explained that while in Poland her work tended to the dark and black. “But here in Tucson there is so much happiness,” she says, and her work shows it with more vibrant and bold use of color.
Gallery 2402’s pieces tend to average in the $500 range, “not a copy, but an original by an artist who has earned recognition,” el Kaim says. A few pieces, such as those by long established western artist Dale Strong are more costly.
“I think the people of Tucson are very supportive of the arts and artists and that they would like to support us,” el Kaim says. “But because of the economy, they’re putting things off for a better time. We’re here now and we’ll be here then. I survived in the Middle East and I’ll make it here.”