G.R. N'Namdi Gallery is Peoria Street's odd man out. Its neighbors grab considerably more press and larger opening-night crowds. Their spaces are more homegrown, while N'Namdi is an offshoot of a Detroit flagship. Their work skews more academic and conceptual, while N'Namdi's has a broader appeal. And in a city with a population more black than white, N'Namdi's is the only West Loop gallery focused primarily on African-American abstract art.
The route that father and son gallery owners George and Jumaane N'Namdi took to arrive here is similarly unique. They opened their Detroit space in 1980, steadily building a network of core and emerging artists whose work they'd introduce to major museums in Detroit, New York and Chicago, including the Art Institute. Success brought their brand to a River North storefront in 1996. A few years later, they transferred to their current location and set down a third location in New York's Chelsea art district.
The N'Namdi's history lessons reach back to Civil War sculptor Edmonia Lewis, Harlem Renaissance titans like painter Romare Bearden and photographer James VanDerZee, and contemporary sculptor Charles Seares, whose seven-foot-tall creations fill the generous, warehouse-like space. But the forward-thinking gallerists also collect current, local work by Rashid Johnson and Bernard Williams. The gallery mission reaches beyond the sale to educate present and future clients about a work's historical and cultural value. And they strive to keep the experience accessible. As Jumaane declares: "There is an artistic style or idea that pertains to everyone, regardless of their background or beliefs. Art is everywhere and for everyone."
Centerstage Reviewer: Justin Sondak