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Pilgrim Monument, line drawing by Ewa Nogiec
Provincetown History: Galleries


Although the designated "gallery district" is in the East End, there are galleries in the West End and Town Center as well.

In the summer of 1949, Forum 49 was held at 200 Commercial Street (Gallery 200). This ground-breaking series of exhibitions, lectures and forums focused on new ideas in the art world, drawing large audiences and rave reviews from the New York critics. The Forum included the first major exhibition of Abstract Expressionist art in the country.

The first artists' cooperative gallery was established in 1953. For two years Gallery 256 was located under the movie house next to Town Hall. The Provincetown Group Gallery, formed in 1964, lasted more than 25 years and the Long Point Gallery, established in 1976 by a group of noted artists, remained open until 1998.

The '50s and '60s saw the emergence of high quality commercial galleries, many of them branches of New York galleries. In 1964 the Art Association catalog contained ads for 13 galleries and 11 art schools. New York dealer Sam Kootz opened the Kootz Gallery in 1953 at 481 Commercial Street; in 1955 Nat Halper took it over, re-naming it HCE. Until 1967, the HCE was Provincetown's premier gallery, sponsoring prominent artists who also were shown in New York or who had already achieved success at other galleries in Provincetown.

The Sun Gallery was the smallest and most innovative gallery of that time. Located at 393 Commercial Street, it operated on a shoestring from 1956 to 1959, providing a place for young off-beat artists working in a figurative style. Many went on to fame and success in the larger art world. Sun Gallery owners Yvonne Anderson and Dominic Falcone held art exhibitions and presented readings by poets such as Ferlinghetti and Happenings by Red Grooms.

Both the unconventional Sun and the elegant HCE were part of the ritual Friday evening gallery stroll. Most galleries opened their new shows on that night and gallery goers thronged from East to West End, visiting each opening party on the way.

The '70s saw major changes in Provincetown's art scene including the closing of many galleries. With the resurgence of art institutions and activities in the '80s and '90s, galleries reappeared and remain strong and numerous today. More than ever before are staying open throughout much of the year.

The gallery stroll is still a popular feature of the summer art season. On weekend nights gallery owners schedule openings and everyone is invited to visit and view and sip wine. Gallery schedules are printed in the local newspapers and the Provincetown Gallery Guild publishes a brochure annually listing members with descriptions, addresses and a map.


from PROVINCETOWN: THE ART COLONY A Brief History and Guide by Nyla Ahrens, published by Provincetown Art Association and Museum, 1997. Revised edition published 2000. Available in print at Provincetown Art Association and Museum Store.

© Nyla Ahrens

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