For the last couple of months, word has been circulating that Basement Gallery—the subterranean space below the Idanha Building at 10th and Main streets—is being sold. Ignoring the art scene gossip, Perry Allen, owner of Basement Gallery, kept his lips tightly sealed. On Tuesday, Nov. 24, as a couple of customers browsed the gallery’s annual X-mas X-hibition, Allen busied himself tidying up the frame shop, a task he’s done regularly for the past 13 years. Glancing up occasionally while fussing with a piece of matting, Allen finally confirmed the rumors. The gallery is being sold to Jane and Michael Brumfield, a couple who also own the Weekend Gallery in Hastings, East Sussex, England.
“Yes, they will keep it a gallery,” said Allen. “No, the name won’t change; it will be the same. They’re buying the name and the reputation. So, that’s real important to them to be purchasing a business that’s been existing for 13 years—already established, already has the name and the clientele and everything else coming along with it.”
Asked if the new owners will keep some of the same artists onboard—local favorites like Bill Carman, Ben Wilson and Mike Flinn who Basement Gallery has nurtured over the years —Allen shrugged his shoulders: “As far as who she will retain and who she won’t? I have no idea, not even the vaguest clue.”
“I believe their plan is to do a European/U.S. exchange type thing,” Allen continued. “For the most part our tastes are pretty close. We do vary in some areas, but for the most part I would label it as eclectic. She definitely is in the eclectic realm.”
A glance at the Weekend Gallery’s “Christmas ’09” exhibition on their Web site reveals an assorted collection of paintings, porcelain lamps, ceramic sculptures and jewelry. Though the work represented is far from traditional, it’s missing the thick pop-surrealism thread that has run through most Basement Gallery exhibitions over the years. While the Brumfields couldn’t be reached for comment, their Web site does list an upcoming exhibition with Bill Carman and Len Shelley running from Jan. 7-Feb. 14, 2010. Carman, as it turns out, is the reason the Brumfields decided to purchase Basement Gallery in the first place.
“Jane walked through the door, she walked into the Bill Carman exhibition as a matter of fact. She was very fond of his work, as are most, and she would pick a couple of pieces and then a few minutes later, she’d pick a couple more,” said Allen. “Long story short, she’s buying up a bunch of Carmans so I approach her and say ‘Hey, why don’t you just buy the gallery?’ She looked at me and kind of did a double take. She said, ‘Is it actually for sale?’ And I said, ‘Yes, it is.’”
Allen had listed the gallery for sale a month before meeting the Brumfields, just to gauge the type of response he might get. Though he wasn’t intending to receive interest in the space so soon, he decided to jump on the opportunity.
“It’s bittersweet, simply because this has been my life for 13 years, and I’ve built it basically from the ground up with a little help from others,” said Allen. “It’s really hard to give up; it’s not an easy thing to walk away from. But I have future plans, and part of the plans are to relinquish the business and move on.”
Those plans? Hula skirts and sandy beaches: “I’m wanting to relocate to Hawaii, that’s the main focus,” said Allen.
But for those hoping to snag a few discounted Bill Carman or Erin Ruiz paintings, don’t hold your breath. Allen doesn’t have any big fanfare planned for his exit from the Boise art scene.
“I hope to exit as quietly as I entered,” he said.