Once called the place where “the brave new art scene comes alive,” the Sande Webster Gallery (SWG), one of the few galleries to showcase work by African-American artists on a regular basis for more than 40 years, has closed. Gallery owner Sande Webster explained that while she has weathered many recessions over the years, the latest economic downturn hit her clientele hard.
“The gallery business is not what it was,” Webster said. “I just read an article where 70 percent of art today is being sold at auctions, fairs and online. People are just not going to galleries. In New York this year, 32 galleries closed. Several galleries in Philadelphia have become co-op galleries. So I'm moving on. I'm ending one phase of what I do, but I'm going on to the next phase: arts consulting.”
The premier Rittenhouse Square-based art gallery was established in 1967, and Webster — a white Jewish woman — stood out as an exception to an unspoken rule and chose to invite artists based on the quality of their work, regardless of race.
“I have never ever thought I was doing the wrong thing,” Webster said. “We did what no other gallery did 42 years ago, and what most galleries are not even doing today. We have a diversity in our gallery as far as the artist that is unmatchable. Those artists that came to me many years ago — many of them out of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Tyler, University of the Arts, Moore — and most of them have gone on to become part of major corporate collections, museum collections.”
Webster, who will now offer personalized services and workshops for new collectors, says she will remain committed to the African-American art scene that has blossomed and waned to varying degrees throughout the late 20th century to the present.
“There’s a whole new world out there and I want to be part of that,” Webster said. “My concept is that this will continue and we will continue to do interesting things, maybe different from what I was doing before, but still viable and very exciting for people to share.”
For more information on the Sande Webster Brantley Art Studio, call (267) 977-1739 or visit sandewebstergallery.com