After 13 years, Glavé Kocen Gallery on Main Street, which is owned by husband-and-wife team B.J. Kocen and Jennifer Glavé, is shuttering its doors after June. In total, it marks 17 years the couple has sold art on Main Street, after beginning at the now-defunct Rentz Gallery.
But it’s not really bad news.
“Last year was a very challenging year for us,” Kocen explains, “We just knew that for our own sanity and for our family that we were not going to be able to run the art fair, Current, and the gallery.” They chose Current.
“It wasn’t a tough decision,” Kocen says. “Between Christmas and New Year’s. … We looked at each other and said, ‘What are we going to do? We can’t do it all. We’re going to have to say goodbye to something.’’ It was that easy.”
However, it was harder to call the 40 artists they represented at the gallery to break the news. “It was like breaking up with your best friend,” Glavé says.
Last year, Kocen and Glavé picked up the reins as owners and operators of Current, Richmond’s only art fair that began in 2015 and oversaw its third iteration from Oct. 24 to 27. The event, marketed outside of Virginia mostly through word-of-mouth and social media, welcomed approximately 2,400 visitors from Florida to New York and as far west as Atlanta. According to Kocen, more than half of the fair exhibitors either broke even financially or exceeded their projected sales figures.
This year’s fair returns to the training facility and is scheduled for Oct. 22 to 25.
While they managed Current, the two continued to operate Glavé Kocen Gallery five days a week as the only two full-time employees. It wasn’t until after the fair in November, following the death of Glavé’s father in September, that the couple found time to slow down, leave town and reassess their priorities.
Kocen says that he wasn’t “getting burnt [out], but I was starting to get a little crispy. You need to be brave enough to go out in your own terms.”
They chose the art fair for several reasons, including that it afforded them the flexibility to work from home and focus on other priorities — Glavé and Kocen have their sights on pop-up exhibitions in other cities, artist seminars and art consulting. But it also was a financial decision when they discovered that operating two separate companies was, as Kocen describes, “a cash-flow nightmare.”
Lastly, the two considered their own historical legacy and ability to elevate the reputation of the Richmond art scene. Kocen points to the pivotal work done by the late Bev Reynolds, who advocated a vision for Richmond as a nationally recognized art city on par with Chicago or Los Angeles. For Kocen and Glavé, when weighing the options between operating another gallery among many in the city versus the only art fair, the choice was clear.
“I hate to say it, because I don’t want to negate what we’ve done at the gallery — but maybe [we can do something] a little more historically significant,” Kocen admits.
In the meantime, the next five months will be a farewell season with some of their favorite artists: a group show in February, a ceramic exhibition titled “Burdens of History” co-hosted with the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, and two- or three-person exhibitions of their regular artists — including Matt Lively and Ed Trask. Kocen promises a party with live music on the last Saturday in June and that “we will throw down until the cops kick us out.”
What’s next for the building, which is owned by the couple? Two organizations, including an art gallery outside of Richmond, have expressed interest but the couple isn’t in a hurry to sell the building.
“We would love to foster somebody to come in and have some type — if a gallery, great if not a type of retail — to keep our brothers and sisters on this block have more reason for people to come to Main Street,” Kocen says.