Forr and Floria: A merger of galleries and aesthetics in Aspen |

Forr and Floria: A merger of galleries and aesthetics in Aspen

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Lynda Lowe fits comfortably among the artists that gallerist David Floria has represented over his three decades in Aspen. Lowe, a painter from Washington state, is interested in nature, composition and a balance between contemporary and traditional approaches; her work is reminiscent of Jody Guralnick and Dick Carter, both local artists who Floria has represented.Floria is about to present his first exhibition of Lowe’s work – but Floria did not exactly discover Lowe or choose to have her as one of his artists. For that, Floria can thank Anna Forr, his partner in the new Forr Floria Gallery. The Lynda Lowe solo exhibition, which opens Aug. 11, was planned a year ago, when Forr was working on her own in Forr & Co. Fine Art. In the merger of the David Floria Gallery, which had operated in the Aspen area since the early ’90s, and Forr & Co., which opened five years ago, there have been all sorts of decisions, from financial to artistic, to mull over. One decision that took little effort was keeping the Lynda Lowe exhibition on the schedule.”I had never heard of Lynda. But I would have represented her, absolutely,” Floria said in the roomy, ground-level space on the Hyman Ave. mall that is the former site of Forr & Co., and now houses the Forr Floria Gallery. (There is a second branch of the gallery, in the Solaris Residences in Vail.) “I really believe in the work. It’s strong, soulful, important work. I’m happy to be introduced to it.”Art viewers can get an early look at Lowe’s work this weekend at ArtAspen. The third annual art fair, running through Sunday at the Aspen Ice Garden, includes a Forr Floria Gallery booth; the booth will also feature work by Robert Kelly and Judith Kindler.The merger between Floria and Forr, which took effect late this past spring, has meant changes for both sides. For Forr it meant increasing the focus on contemporary artists (though the new gallery still deals in the modernist masters, including Chagall, Picasso and Mir, that she had specialized in before). For Floria, there was a welcome move from a tight, second-story space to the more prominent spaces he now occupies. Just as significant, both went from calling their own shots to having to collaborate and compromise on most of their ideas.But in this early stage of the merger, there has been no clashing of artistic values.”It shows that, at the core, there’s immense closeness,” Forr, a Ukrainian native who studied art and business in London and has lived in the U.S. for seven years, said. “If you look just in terms of aesthetics – What do you love? – that’s the easiest part. With the art itself, it’s pretty simple. We look at some art and nod, ‘Yes.’ And it’s a strong yes, because it’s both of us.”Almost certainly the most difficult part emotionally was the paring down of their respective rosters of artists. Floria had represented 20 artists; he brought eight of them with him to the new venture. Forr dropped eight artists. The new gallery now represents a total of 25 artists.”The most complicated issue, and complicated because it’s delicate, is, Who stays who goes?” Forr said.”It can be emotionally loaded,” said Floria, who began his Aspen career in the ’80s as a curator at the Aspen Art Museum. “There are artists I’ve represented 25 years and known and been friends with even longer, and I wasn’t able to bring here and show. That was a challenging emotional/relationship issue I’ve had to deal with.”The seed for the merger was a quick thought that came to Forr, that Floria, a liked and respected figure in the local art world, might make for a good partner. As it happens, Floria had been considering getting out of the retail gallery business and moving into private art dealing. Forr floated her idea to a mutual friend, who approached Floria with the idea of joining up with Forr.”That sound interesting to me. I said, sure, let’s talk about it,” Floria said. In fact, Floria called Forr on the spot, and things continued to move quickly. When the merger took effect, there was little time to strategize, and the two say that the specifics of the new gallery are still developing. But the overall goal is to establish an aesthetic that neither one could have done on their own. “This winter we’ll be able to do more advance planning, collaborate on projects, and really do something new – an alternative contribution to the Aspen art scene,” Floria said. “It’s a blending of two aesthetics; it’s going to be a hybrid. Not just mine or hers, but somewhere in between. And hopefully it will be greater than just one of ours. That’s the goal.”For Forr, becoming partners with Floria was the easiest decision of all.”I think it makes sense for a lot of reasons. It didn’t make sense not to,” she said. “Everything about it just made sense.”The two also found that it made sense to have a presence at ArtAspen, where they will show what Floria called a “greatest hits” of the new gallery. Last year at the fair, Floria concentrated on one artist, local sculptor James Surls; Forr has participated in art fairs around the country, but never at ArtAspen.”Art fairs have grown to be a huge deal in the art world,” Floria said. “Some galleries don’t have a hometown, they just travel from fair to fair. Some collectors only collect from fairs: They save up their budget, go to one city like Miami, and see all the best art in one place.”Among the fans of art fairs is Forr: “They’re beautiful. Inspirational. For me, it’s like a child in Disneyland – there’s something to see everywhere.”Floria said ArtAspen has a distinct niche among art fairs due to its small size and the small town where it is staged. Other fairs can be more like competitions.”Some places, collectors line up like at a marathon and when the fair opens, they run in,” he said. “Some booths sell out in 20 minutes.”

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