Lisa Sette Gallery leads cultural transformation of midtown Phoenix
International contemporary art space Lisa Sette Gallery expands and relocates to Modernist gem in Midtown Phoenix
In summer 2014, Lisa Sette Gallery, a regional bastion of experimental and adventurous contemporary art, relocated to an architecturally significant Al Beadle-designed building in the burgeoning Midtown Phoenix area.
Sleek, low-slung and semi-subterranean, the building at East Catalina Drive was created by Beadle to mirror his adjacent personal office on 3rd Street: the structure embodies the form-focused and materials-conscious Modernism the architect is renowned for. For Lisa Sette Gallery, the new space—not only an architectural classic, but also a larger, more accessible venue—signifies Founder and President Lisa Sette’s fearless embrace of the city’s unique topography, as well as her ongoing commitment to furthering a sophisticated cultural vision that is unmatched in the regional art scene.
“After 28 years in Scottsdale we are doing what we do best—leading/forging new territory,” remarks Sette. “We are gravitating to an up-and-coming energy in Midtown Phoenix, and have found just the right architectural gem to house the Gallery.”
Lisa Sette Gallery’s move and expansion attests to its remarkable and enduring successes, while the new venue—renovated by modern architecture firm StarkJames, in collaboration with Lisa Sette—confirms Midtown as an area on the edge of an urban-living explosion. For cultural connoisseurs and Phoenix denizens, Lisa Sette Gallery’s new home is reason to celebrate, as the city comes into its own as an urban center, and Lisa Sette commits to many more years directing her acclaimed, innovative contemporary art space in the heart of Arizona.
The Beadle building on East Catalina Drive is uniquely situated to succeed as a gallery and exhibit space, both in its proximity to the light-rail line and burgeoning cultural infill of Midtown Phoenix, and in its fundamental design. Scott Jarson, Director of AZarchitecture, comments:
“The careful relocation of Lisa Sette Gallery speaks volumes to a new urbanism that is sweeping the core of our city, reconfirming what I call Desert Urbanism. More and more, people are discovering an honest and original Phoenix, one that existed long before suburban sprawl and strip malls.
I love the adaptive re-use of this space as a gallery. I can think of no higher compliment, and quite possibly no higher protection for the building. It’s interesting to think about Lisa’s sublime artistic vision in regards to this new space—much of the work she is known for evokes a strong and immediate emotional response, often a little sparse, warm, inviting, and textural… not unlike Beadle’s architecture.”
Working with StarkJames principle Wesley James, Sette sought to preserve much of the original Beadle structure, finding in its below-ground design an ideal way for visitors to enter her unique installation and exhibit spaces. Says James, “The existing entry sequence is one of stepping down a short flight of stairs, under a canopy, into the earth before entering the building. We saw this as a wonderful sequence and setting for an entry into a gallery space…moving down into the earth, leaving the mundane world behind.”
The largest departure from the building’s original state will be a fabric scrim wrapping the building, an idea that diverges from the original design but builds upon it conceptually, adding another layer to be moved through both spatially and visually. James remarks: “Shading the exterior is a response that we feel is appropriate for our environment… It also allows us to set the stage for what will be a beautiful transformation when the fabric is lit from the exterior for evening exhibition openings and special events.”
The Gallery’s impressive new home allows Sette to carry on and expand upon a curatorial vision that is both locally relevant and globally cognizant, in a space that opens up new possibilities for Sette’s curatorial work at large, and for the intellectual and cultural life of downtown Phoenix.
Lisa Sette anticipates that “The new location will provide for intimate exhibition areas and greatly improved back of the house spaces”—ideal for hosting salons, artist events and diverse arts programming.
Throughout three trailblazing decades, Lisa Sette has remained committed to discovering and exposing original, intriguing forms of expression: Her gallery exhibits an impressive roster of emerging and established artists at leading events around the world, as well as maintaining a clientele of local and international collectors devoted to its founder’s adventurous curatorial vision. With an artist list that includes Arizona luminary James Turrell, desert favorite Mayme Kratz, Mexican born cultural maverick and Stanford professor Enrique Chagoya, interdisciplinary artists Julianne Swartz (NY) and Angela Ellsworth (AZ), contemporary Indian sculptor Siri Devi Khandavilli, and conceptual photographers Fiona Pardington (New Zealand), and Luis Molina-Pantin (Venezuela), Lisa Sette has consistently sought out diverse artists working on the leading edge of aesthetic, social and conceptual investigation.
Lisa Sette Gallery offers the Arizona art world something of almost indefinable value: a sense of self. The gallery’s singular vision concerns a considered reaction to its context—in both time and geographical place. It presents an irony-free conception of contemporary art of the West that is both sophisticated and avant-garde. Rather than seeking to distance itself from what it means to live in a desert city, the Sette aesthetic encapsulates an understanding of this idiosyncratic existence; nearing the edge of the hemisphere— simultaneously beautiful, threatening, and precarious, and, as such, fertile creative ground for contemporary artwork.