THE ENDURING REASONS WHY: Q&A With Christine Pfister About Pentimenti Gallery’s 25th Anniversary

Pentimenti Gallery in Philadelphia will present The Enduring Reasons Why to celebrate its 25th anniversary. (Photos courtesy of Director and Co-Owner Christine Pfister)
This year, Pentimenti Gallery in Philadelphia–making a significant statement within the history of art–will celebrate its 25th anniversary. Throughout this time, Director and Co-Owner Christine Pfister has provided challenging and visually striking, content-driven contemporary artwork. The exhibition program continues to expand its horizons, encompassing abstract and figurative aesthetics to avant-garde works created from unconventional materials.
Tips for Operating a Thriving Art Gallery
Here are Christine Pfister‘s insights about operating a thriving art gallery:
Christine Pfister, director and co-owner of Pentimenti Gallery in Philadelphia
1. What is a key to sustaining a gallery for 25 years while many others have closed? A key to sustaining a gallery for 25 years is day-to-day consistency while remaining focused on big-picture aspirations.
2. What are some of the challenges that you have confronted and resolved during this time? Throughout 25 years, the biggest challenge has been staying true to an established aesthetic niche.
3. Can you describe your process in deciding which artists to feature? I begin by visiting as many other artistic institutions as I can to see what appeals to me personally while maintaining a dialogue with other curators, gallerists, artists and collectors. If the work fits the aesthetic of the gallery, I then make many studio visits to determine where each artist fits within my program.
4. What are your thoughts about the current art scene in Philadelphia? I find the current art scene in Philadelphia very unique and exciting while still wishing to see more privately owned establishments.
5. How have you garnered national recognition, and can you share some tips? Pentimenti has garnered its national recognition by networking with curators and institutions around the country, along with continual representation at well-established art fairs each year.
6. What stands out as a major accomplishment at Pentimenti, and why is it a source of satisfaction? A major accomplishment that stands out most to me was when Pentimenti was selected to show at its first major art fair at Art Miami. At the time, this was one of only three major art fairs in the country along with Art Chicago and the New York Armory Show. This brought Pentimenti alongside some of the most well-known galleries throughout the country.
7. Can you share any lessons learned about balancing arts and business practices to help others thrive? The answer to that question is “it’s realizing that balance doesn’t exist!” I would say the most important thing is to be patient and remain confident in your decisions.
Special Pentimenti Exhibition Celebrating 25th Anniversary
In honor of its 25th anniversary, Pentimenti will present The Enduring Reasons Why from September 16 (opening reception: 5 to 8 p.m.) to October 21, 2017. The show invites you to take a stroll down memory lane by presenting new works from each of the gallery’s esteemed artists along with some of their “personally significant artifacts” from 25 years ago. These pieces show the development of who they are as an artist now and include a piece of artwork created during that time, mementos or objects they found artistically inspirational, or items representing them as a person back then.
Pentimenti Artists’ Revelations
Here are some firsthand descriptions about the artists’ development, process and experiences at Pentimenti Gallery in Philadelphia:
STEVEN BARIS | For my life as an artist, the greatest rewards are the countless hours I spend in the studio. The Buddha was overheard to have said that all life is suffering (which I happen to agree with), and yet I spend much of my life in a proverbial sandbox just making stuff.
Yes, there are many times when the well dries up, and I get frustrated and depressed. But then I look around and see how most people are spending their days and hours; and then I realize, once again, I’m right where I want to be. Really, I can think of no better way to inhabit time.
CECILIA BIAGINI | Art has welcomed me, art is my life, my purpose.  My realization is with the unreal by making it real.
I’m able and need to produce to create a more desirable reality.
It all made sense since my teens I knew, I was, an artist, I will take that role in society.  I knew what I would be doing all these years of making art, that I will work for the arts, painting, photographing, acting, making music, multi medium ways of doing, my work.
My glory are the daily days of a living artist,  the consistency of an artist mind.
The struggle comes sometimes in the form of monetary voids or artistic solitude but have never got to the point of stopping or questioning what it has nurtured me the most.
Continuous dedication. To do – to be, makes it happen.
I am not a careerist so the work itself has been building my career and making contact with the art world and have a fair living.
I’ve had more luck than Modigliani when he was alive!
One lucky star! (I wanted to say that an artist as big as Modigliani had less luck, the chance factor and that I feel fortunate.)
ANTHONY DEMELAS | When I think of a second home or family, I trace back to my history growing up in Center City, my education, and being a part of Pentimenti. I’ve been with Pentimenti since it’s inception, and Christine has been by my side through thick and thin.
I owe my dedication to making art to my parents, my mother who always found ways to generate money through her art, my father who continuously was drawing on anything he could find, and my uncle; who taught at the city college in NYC; who stored incredible ink drawings under my bed. This was my upbringing; surrounded by artists who inspired me, born and bred in Philly, my whole life.
I’ve always predicted myself to work on art everyday at a very early age. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I decided to attend the Academy of Fine Arts. In my senior year, I won the traveling scholarship to travel to Europe. The trip to Europe was not my first, so it was a great opportunity for me to focus on my art, and return home with new insights.
Upon my return from Europe, I found a new focus and drive. Christine came to my senior show and hand picked me to be part of her new gallery that was opening in Old City. At the time I was making sculptures, but I’ve evolved into many different methods of creation in the last twenty-five years at Pentimenti.
Pentimenti has been a wondrous documented history for me. Through the many facets of art making from sculpture to mural making; I owe my success to Christine. She has been a sage, a business partner, and a real friend. All my love. Happy 25th Anniversary Pentimenti!
EDGAR DIEHL | You may hear my colleagues say that they work as artists because there is nothing else that they are excellent at. We all have diverse talents. There is however no such activity, that affords you such freedom and responsibility, with so much risk and opportunity, solitude and satisfaction. In art, we are surrounded by people who are interested in fundamental questions and who are born aesthetes. A very pleasant company.
Louis XIV, the absolute ruler with the strictest court etiquette interacted alone with his artists in a relaxed fashion. He understood that his royal legacy will be best portrayed by his artists and that it will be the only thing that will outlast time. Is there anything better to cultivate the fundamental questions of our lives and foster the inspiration of high-minded people than to create something new in art?
TIM EADS | The reasons why I chose the path of an artist can be explained in two ways. Neither of which should be taken too seriously. The first is I’ve simply found deep satisfaction in making things for most of my life. I’m not sure what this is about really. It’s like any addiction that humans have like running, drinking, smoking or extreme sports. If I don’t work with my hands enough I get stir crazy. It’s also a way of finding out who I really am. Through the internal investigation of creating things I discover and learn things about myself that I didn’t know before.
SIMEEN FARHAT | My art practice is about the juxtaposition of words and the back and forth playfulness between sense and non-sense. The dialect of my artistic language is cursive in its shape and with many colors.
KEVIN FINKLEA | Reason is such an odd word. It infers that a decision’s been made, or something’s been arrived at after thinking some things through, but you know I just never really thought about being an artist. I had other reasons, many reasons, for other things I didn’t want to do, certainly. Like I never really wanted to be a mass murderer…and I never wanted to be a Republican. For Christ’s sake I would never in my… No. But you know, think of it like breathing. You just do it and you better. So, I got up this morning and I was thinking about Francis Bacon, and him discussing being an artist; relative to this project. It was a long interview and he was arty at the end, and he was talking about truths and all this sort of arty jazz, but he summarizes and he says, “Well perhaps its a way of passing the time.”
KIKI GAFFNEY | My work has always been about finding expressions of beauty in things that are often overlooked, and almost every day I see something that generates a question, and an opportunity for me to find the answer visually, with pencil or paint. This ongoing conversation is so stimulating for me, and one of the main reasons I am, and will always be an artist.
I knew from an early age that when I grew up I wanted to be an artist. The only ‘road map’ I knew was to study it in school and then continue to make work, and not stop, no matter what else was going on in my life. Looking back at the last 25 years I see that it has been all about perseverance, and being in touch with that simple childhood goal.
“Inspiration is for amateurs,” a friend once told me (quoting Chuck Close). You just have to keep showing up even if you don’t feel like it. One of the greatest struggles (aside from the finances) is to show up everyday whether you have ideas or not, whether you hate what you’re creating or not, and to just be patient, to let the work inform you.
Making art brings me incredible joy, it allows me to manifest an idea visually rather than with words, to share my perspective with others in a way that might generate new ideas within them, or not. It creates connections. At the end of the day it is more like a calling. It is my expression that I get to discover and develop. It’s an honor and a thrill.
JUDY GELLES | Good photos should teach you something…a new way of seeing the world. Having long been caught in the nexus of feminism, motherhood, and developing as an artist, I have undertaken a determined and obsessive exploration on these issues, providing social commentary on who we are and how we think in this socially organized world.
MARK KHAISMAN | Here, is my memory from fifty years ago. I remember closing my eyes in a movie theater as the lights were fading, and then slowly opening them again as the movie had started. I was actually scared of this moment of a picture emergence, but then fear would sublimate into a thrill, and I learned to replay the magic as many times during the movie as I wished, slowly closing and opening my eyes.
Actually, I’m still scared every time I start a new work, but then a thrill comes into play. By the time the piece is done, I don’t exactly know how it has happened, so I feel compelled to start a next image to make sure that I can do it again.
TED LARSEN | We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are. Art shows us who we are.
DONALD MARTINY | When I was in kindergarten our teacher would on occasion pull out an old, wobbly, wooden easel with a pad of paper on it. The kids would line up to take turns painting. The teacher was ungenerous with the paint and would only let us have two colors at a time. I vividly recall how anxious and excited I was while waiting my turn and finally having the chance to peer into the little paint pots and seeing the vibrant, intensely saturated colors. I was completely mesmerized by the color.
I believe that my initial impulse to become interested in art was not because I loved to draw (although I did and still do love to draw intensely), nor was it an interest in images.
I believe it was because of a pure color experience that shaped the rest of my life.
Of course, I had no idea what it meant to be an artist.
The struggles and triumphs along the way.
One major hurdle I had to overcome was that I needed to prove to myself that I could make art that looked like art…like the art I was familiar with, e.g., classical figure, landscape, or still life oil paintings, before I could give myself permission to move beyond that. I spent years of study learning the craft of art: how to draw the figure and paint in oils. Of course, once I achieved a certain level of accomplishment I then needed to find my own voice in order to participate in the “conversation”.
Each work presents new problems and challenges to solve and overcome, at the same time each work presents new ideas and directions to consider. It is a never ending and fascinating journey.
OSVALDO ROMBERG | Since 6 years old, when I went to a shop to buy oil paint to paint a cat on a piece of wood, ‘til today, that I’m 79, I never stop being what they call an ‘artist’. I did other things in life, other studies, BUT art was my existential road. I teach art, but never work in a job or something else. So this is my life and my story. For me reality was always like fiction…and fiction was reality.
HADIEH SHAFIE | I can’t remember a time when I wanted to do anything other than to paint pictures. To have my unique vision contribute to the conversation of contemporary art practice. For me it started in childhood. The many challenges that come from being a full time artist are never ending. Still I wouldn’t have it any other way.
JACKIE TILESTON | I am grateful that as a college student my oh-so-wise father said he fully supported my decision to be an art major – on the condition that I had no “back-up plan”. I couldn’t imagine a tolerable or productive life doing anything else, and my back up plan at the time would have been playing acoustic bass – not exactly a more practical option.
In the challenging, delirious, unpredictable, and complex process of remaining an artist since then, I’ve learned that it’s worth being stubborn about protecting my freedom, curiosity, and joy.
As a form of meaning making, there is work to do for images. Art can open up alternative visual experiences that align us with internal spaces, altered states of consciousness, euphoria, and complexity. Abstraction, especially, is an expert intermediary, translating the nonverbal and not quite visible realities into perceivable, material form. Paintings can function as runners between physical and philosophical realms.
DERRICK VELASQUEZ | It took 29 years to call myself an artist. The only other jobs I could occupy were a cannery worker or cabinetmaker – each of which I would be quite content with. These alternate occupations require precision, endurance and careful planning. These align well with my personal artistic pursuits but the thing that keeps me going within the arts is the ability to push and help others in my community.
ANDREA WOLFENSBERGER | Why do I make art, and why have I made art for such a long time? Really, I do not know. I have been asking myself this question since I started 35 years ago. I never thought to live as an artist professionally, but I am still doing it.
Because I have not found another profession that fascinates me so much. It seems there is a need for me to search existential questions, and to find forms for this questions that are perceivable in a physical way. It is a gift for me to have gotten the chance to do this.
For further information, please contact Pentimenti Gallery in Philadelphia at 215-625-9990 or
GALLERY HOURS: Tuesday by appointment, Wednesday – Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday. noon to 5 p.m.
Andrea Hammer
About Andrea Hammer 285 Articles
Andrea Karen Hammer is the founder, director and owner of Artsphoria Events & Media Group ( Artsphoria International Magazine (; Artsphoria Movie Reviews & Film Forum (; Artsphoria: Arts, Business & Technology Center (; Artsphoria Event Planning, Management & Reporting (; Artsphoria: Food for the Soul (; and Artsphoria Animation & Imagination World ( She is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer who has published articles in international publications.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.