Only In Aspen - Build It And They Will Come
Baldwin Gallery, with a measuring tape, is 7,000 square feet of cold, hard, contemporary art space. The too-cool exterior both belies and frames the beauty of the art and the engagement of the dialogue between work and viewer housed within and brilliantly hosted by owner Richard Edwards and his hard-working staff. Opened in 1994 by the late Harley Baldwin, a quintessential Aspen original and entrepreneur with panache, who parlayed ownership in the iconic popcorn wagon into an eventual real estate bounty from the ground up and his partner Richard Edwards, who grew his own love of collecting into the rare gallery owner’s ability to curate art they truly love and sell. Its spacious and elegant lines are an Aspen mainstay and marvel.
An enigma, it seems to operate out of the bounds of a normal day-to-day. But then again, so does Aspen. The identity of Aspen is bound to both its off-piste skiing and off-the-beaten-path success stories. Baldwin Gallery fits this bill and raises it amply. Harley Baldwin and Richard Edwards defied gravity, opening the gallery’s doors during an economic downturn and grabbing their artist friends from NY and world travels at the perfect moment when they normally might have passed the Aspen art market by and missed this backdoor to the center stage of art appreciation. Soon it became clear that this mountain town’s cache of serious collectors would be an eager buying audience for the pairs’ mix of business savvy and savant curation. Harley, a mentor and inspiration to many, passed away in 2005 leaving Richard at the helm of a fulltime job he is steering impeccably. He is also impeccably dressed, well spoken, and his enviable apartment above the glitter of Caribou Alley is perfectly appointed including walls hung with art gems.
A dialogue burgeons behind its doors of life well-lived with friends and adventure. Not one to bandy words, perhaps his law degree from Cambridge lent him his facility with language, Richard can be as intimidating as the gallery entrance. But when close with him, his friends extoll the natural camaraderie and the passer-by will find him direct and kind. When he does have a moment to speak to you, listen. His eyes and ears have been privy to and trained upon the phenomenon called the contemporary art world/market for the better part of 30+ years. And to be fair, that’s not long after the whole gallery scene began and art went from being viewed in museums to a culture, pulse, and dialogue that has been unstoppable and wildly lucrative ever since. When you visit Aspen, this iconic gallery is not to be missed. I have had the luxury of a few, efficient words here and there with this esteemed gallerist. I learned more in in these soundbites over our quick exchange than in pages others would have shpeeled to me full-to-the-brim of artspeak. Here is a bit of past, present and future at Baldwin gallery and a few insider cliff notes to what makes this man tick and his gallery sturm und drang.
Olivia Daane (OD): What is a past exhibit to which you would give a nod?
Richard Edwards (RE): Our last exhibition with Jim Hodges: "Tracing The Contours Of Our Days" in 2017 was a museum quality show exploring the major themes of Jim's work over the last 30 years.
OD: A current exhibit highlight?
RE: Our current exhibit opening the 26th of December is Tony Oursler "Predictive Empathy" - a new body of video sculptures dealing with the science of facial recognition, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
OD: Upcoming exhibit of note?
RE: Next December 2019, we will present the first show of paintings from a major new body of work by Mickalene Thomas.
OD: What differentiates Baldwin Gallery within the Aspen art scene? What do you think has made it a signature space over the years?
RE: Over 25 years, we have mounted comprehensive exhibitions by internationally-acclaimed artists from the US and Europe. We work on the primary market and these exhibitions of new work are made by the artists to be shown only in Aspen. As a result, we have an international client base and sell to collectors worldwide.
OD: What inspires you in nature? What engages you that is man-made?
RE: No matter how long I live here, the beauty of the mountains around Aspen never ceases to amaze me. I have a home in New York and I love the constantly changing architecture of the city.
OD: Is the art climate changing and how?
RE: We are in a very interesting age of art historically where overlooked and neglected bodies of work by marginalized groups such as African-American artists, feminist artists, and artists from third world countries are being re-examined and re-assessed. The art world is becoming more global and open to different ideas of what constitutes the accepted canon.
On his playlist:
RE: I have been listening to Elton John who spends a lot of time in Aspen and is currently on his farewell tour. Also Rufus Wainwright who is a friend, we just traveled to Toronto for the premiere of his new opera, Hadrian.
On his bedside table:
RE: I read all the time. I am currently reading a biography of the British novelist Anthony Powell by Hilary Spurling. I also have on my bedside table new books by Colm Toibin, William Boyd, Sebastian Faulks and Pat Barker.