by Mark Greenawalt, photos by John Dowd
Originally published in Contact
Magazine, (October 2005)
It’s big. That is the first reaction from visitors upon entering the Bentley Projects. With over 24,000 square feet of gallery space, it’s the largest commercial art gallery in the southwest. The entrance is flanked by a unique sculpture garden setting the tone of an upscale facility, while the cool downtown location gives a certain air of big-city credibility. While art enthusiasts and window shoppers are welcome, it is clear that this gallery caters to true art connoisseurs
The sensational building design starts with vaulted rafters culminating into a raised center aisle roof. Clearstory windows spill ample natural daylight illuminating the artwork and supplemental incandescent track lights have been added to further spotlight each piece.
This light draws the eyes to the art, highlighting the enormity. Oil paintings are larger than life, photographs and c-prints are enlarged to their maximum resolution and soaring 18-foot sculptures command attention. Much of the artwork in this space would not fit in most typically smaller Phoenix galleries.
When asked to describe the type of art exhibited, co-owner Glen Lineberry recalls a public art display in his former home of Los Angeles that read, “It’s not important what you are looking at. It’s just important that it is and that you are looking at it.” This statement had a profound affect on Lineberry and could be what inspired him to host such an eclectic array of art. Although Bentley is clearly different from neighboring galleries in the Grand and Roosevelt districts, the owners also embrace the downtown Phoenix art movement, as evidenced by their support of Artlink’s First Fridays. While being a First Fridays participant is a great benefit, it also is an unintentional result of location. The long-term goal was merely “to build a world-class space that just happens to be in Arizona, the sort of gallery that could be picked up and laid down in Chelsea or London and look like it fit right in place,” Lineberry said.
In 1989, Lineberry and business partner Bentley Dillard opened the original Bentley Gallery in the heart of the Scottsdale art scene (4161 North Marshall Way). Their successes led them to expand into the burgeoning Phoenix art district.
Why Phoenix? “It’s an exciting time,” Lineberry explained. “Everything you need to get started is here in this city and the haphazard growth of the city has limited obstructions found in other world art centers.” Opportunities abounded with reasonable real estate, favorable business incentives and most importantly an exponentially expanding client base. For the Bentley Projects, the time was right.
Lineberry and Dillard were looking for more available display space than their 3,000-square-foot Scottsdale gallery. The quest ended when they found an empty warehouse that had been a commercial laundry facility since 1912. The location was central to all parts of the Valley and benefited from foot traffic from the Copper Square district attractions. A fair amount of upgrades were required, including revamping mechanical and electrical infrastructure as well as the clean-up of lint build-up in the rafters.
The normal operating hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday, with additional hours reserved for special events such as First Fridays. The gallery is also available to rent for private receptions and events, offering in-house catering service from the award-winning Arcadia Farms City Bakery. The bakery is also a hot spot for area business persons and offers gourmet sandwiches, salads, soups and sweets. (bakery hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday). Additional tenants at the Bentley Projects art complex include Framer’s Workshop, David E. Adler, Inc. and Poisoned Pen Central, an eclectic bookstore specializing in mystery, sci-fi and fantasy fiction as well as first editions and rare books.
Dillard’s promotional efforts include a well maintained website where the current exhibition can be viewed and purchased online. There is a comprehensive listing of current exhibiting artists, thumbnail gallery images and artist bios. The website is evidence that the curators have the artists’ best interest at heart. “We exhibit contemporary painting and sculpture by internationally recognized artists as well as rising painters and sculptors and also show masterworks from the mid and late 20th century,” Dillard said. In addition, Bentley also produces a monthly newsletter that has evolved into a professionally printed magazine. It is distributed to an extensive list of clients and contemporaries promoting artists and their works while offering art-walk info, dining tips and articles geared toward its target audience.
The Bentley Projects is impressive in many ways. Visit often, as the art is continually rotated and new artists are introduced to the roster frequently
This article can also be found
on-line at http://www.contact-mag.com/bentley.htm
The Bentley Projects official website is http://www.bentleyprojects.com/