Gallery hosts final showing

Legacy owner says people were enjoying but not buying art.
Friday, May 7, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:26 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

The small, rectangular white board reads: “Everything you imagine is real — Picasso.”

People stopped to look at the Broadway signboard — its message changes daily — before mingling, eating and roaming around Legacy Art & BookWorks during its downtown Gallery Crawl on Thursday.

The crawl was part of a reception for Legacy’s final show, “All Good Things,” by artists Frank Stack and Larry Rugolo. The exhibit, from two of Legacy’s most respected artists, features 66 pieces — screen prints, photographs and oil portraits and landscapes, with subject matter ranging from Stack’s “River at Boonville” to Rugolo’s photographs of New Mexican pueblos.

Owner Jim Downey mingled among the crowd, talking with customers, friends and artists about the show and the gallery’s closing at the end of the month.

Downey made the choice to close the gallery in February after a lengthy financial battle. He said the gallery hasn’t sold enough art.

Many of the crawl’s participants were disappointed about the closing but said they understood the financial strain that keeps supporters from buying art.

Columbia architect Brian Pape, who was viewing the show, said while many people support art, few purchase it.

“The community does as much as it can to support it,” he said. “There’s only a very minor part of the population who buy art.”

Bob Bailey of Fulton came to the Gallery Crawl wearing a T-shirt that read: “I’m not a packrat, I’m a collector.” While he considers himself a fan of art, especially Stack’s work, the price is often too high.

“I’m too poor,” he said, “I just come and enjoy.”

As a gallery owner in Columbia, Downey is well aware of the difference between looking and buying.

“It seems that there’s a disconnect between professing such support and opening your wallet or checkbook,” he said on his Web site, which is counting down the days to the gallery’s closing.

“I think that the community is losing a real cultural resource,” said Stack, who has done shows at Legacy for the past six years. “But we live in a culture of money.”

Downey said it is a matter of priorities, estimating that a $10 sale to everyone on his mailing list would double the income of the gallery. Still, he has seen an uptick in sales since he announced the closing, when people “realized they couldn’t just wait and look.”

Legacy will close May 22.

Downey still is debating what to put on the final white board sign. He never decides on the quote until the morning it goes on display.

He said he’s considering one of his favorite Joni Mitchell lines.

“That you don’t know what you’ve got, ’till it’s gone,” he said.

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