SIMON GALLERY – The first 20 Years
Harry and Mary Ellen Simon began talking casually about opening a business together shortly after getting married in 1991. The conversation became serious in 1996 after a trip to Philadelphia where a childhood friend of Harry’s settled with his wife and two year old daughter after living in London for twelve years.
This friend and three other acquaintances in the Simon’s lives at the time were artists, who unanimously assured the couple that having no formal art education would not be a detriment to operating an art gallery. The decision to proceed was made in the Spring and the inaugural show featuring Harry’s friend since 1969 opened on October 25, 1996.
There was no written business plan, only the commitment of two years before the endeavor would be graded pass or fail. By the fourth year there were four New York Times reviews. In his first of the reviews, (November 30, 1997) Barry Schwabsky said, “The Simon Gallery here is the kind of bright, undistracting space in which most artists dream of showing their work: a near-ideal art gallery”
The year 2000 marked the last group show and 2001 saw the final exhibition of realistic work. Belief in their artists made solo shows the standard venue and the Simon’s passion for modern – abstract – contemporary – or non objective art, defined the gallery’s sensibility.
Supporting their artists and promoting the visual arts in New Jersey was and continues to be a required byproduct of any and all collaborations. Jurying exhibits at local art associations, organizing and running their town’s art walk, offering art students from the area an internship opportunity as well as helping their local museum organize a fundraising event were all causes the Simon’s embraced.
Artist and client relationships from day one were always in perfect balance, both receiving the same degree of commitment, appreciation, and respect. It didn’t matter if you were walking into SIMON GALLERY to kill time on a lunch break, meet the requirements of an art class, seek advice on how to further your art career, talk about the current exhibit, or purchase art; there was always someone there to greet you five days a week from September through June for 20 years.
The last opening reception at SIMON GALLERY on Bank Street in Morristown was May 27, 2016. A friend in attendance handed the Simon’s a note as he was leaving. Among other things he said, “You have championed art for its own sake – a noble cause. You have attempted to take the shtick, affectation and pretense out of the business side mostly replacing it with information on the artist and an objective understanding of his/her work. So I want thank you for what you have accomplished. Warmest wishes and luck for Act II.”
Act II opens at the start of the 2016 art season with the Simon’s expressing sincere gratitude to everyone who helped make Act I such a success. The decision to continue as an online gallery was not made without deference to the actual space where so much wonderful art was exhibited. Again from the note of May 27, 2016 – ”Your brick and mortar gallery, instead of a virtual one, signified your presence and was at the heart of your success. Driving by your place, a real art gallery, a little hidden treasure tucked away awaiting discovery by any itinerant driver who caught a red light on Route 202 – that was the secret.”
Harry and Mary Ellen Simon