BY LINDA BAKER
Gallery owner Charles Froelick
// Photo by Adam Wickham
“I worked for 10 years to get that commission.” Charles Froelick, 48, is in his eponymous Portland gallery, an airy open space currently featuring an installation by Gail Tremblay: loops of 16mm film braided to resemble Iroquois baskets. The commission he’s referring to is a set of 20-foot-tall wooden poles chiseled by sculptor Rick Bartow. It was installed at the Smithsonian this past September and clocked in at $200,000, the most expensive piece of art Froelick has sold since opening his gallery in 1995.
One of the city’s iconic gallery owners and former president of the Portland Art Dealers Association (PADA), Froelick caters mostly to individual collectors. But the number of institutional and corporate buyers grows every year, observes Froelick, who recently delivered a botanical drawing by Portland artist Sarah Horowitz to Oregon Health & Science University.
Portland is lacking in large companies with the “economy of means to purchase art,” says Froelick, who, in the early ’90s, relocated to Portland from Houston, where a steady stream of oil money fueled an active art market. But, he says, the Rose City does house plenty of “individual practitioners” — doctors, lawyers — who purchase art to enhance their work environments. Besides, even Texas, with its energy-market base, is no stranger to boom-and-bust cycles. A successful dealer, Froelick observes, needs “a collector in Chicago; one in Miami, one in New York.”
For the past three years, Froelick has run a temporary satellite gallery in Palm Springs, targeting the “different economy in Southern California.” He’s set his sights on a 2014 Miami art fair and, as always, is working to get the artists he represents into museums and in line for commissions while keeping collectors appraised of new works. The art business, Froelick says, “is a relationship-reliant experience.”