Adam Cave had been working at Gallery C, one of Raleigh's oldest galleries, for ten years when he decided to strike out on his own. Cave, a genial dealer who represents national artists, was especially interested in printmaking, a niche he began to fill when he and his wife, Cindy, opened Adam Cave Fine Art on Hargett Street in 2008.
"Like everybody, we knew the recession was coming and it would be a great time to jump in," he jokes. But, after weathering the crash—which made going out to eat, let alone buying art, a dispensable luxury—Cave participated in and enjoyed the rapid growth downtown.
"Downtown seemed awesome when we started, and it was," he says. "It was this developing place we feel like we contributed to. Even adding one gallery to First Friday made it feel much more dynamic. It went from being centered around Artspace to being this downtown circus."
That circus, however lively, brought new challenges, and they led to Adam Cave Fine Art closing shop on Hargett Street in June. The reason for its move to Progress Park, where it reopens this week, is contextually complex but essentially simple: as new restaurants and bars increased congestion downtown and Fayetteville Street was frequently closed on weekends for events, it got really hard to park.
"Be careful of your own success," Cave says. "We increasingly felt like people had a hard time getting to us downtown."
Cave isn't the only important Raleigh gallerist seeking to activate a more spacious fringe of downtown. In the fall, he'll be joined on the edge of Five Points by Lee Hansley Gallery, moving from its longtime home on Glenwood Avenue. If this migration picks up steam, it could change the geographical complexion of the Raleigh art scene and its First Friday art walks.
When Cave started looking for a new space about a year ago, he wasn't too concerned about its address. After the recession, his business had taken off in an unexpected direction.
"We were seeing much higher online sales than we used to," Cave explains. "That suggested that location in Raleigh was less important for us."
While he didn't want to completely forsake an urban identity for the sake of convenience, accessibility was a greater concern than expense. The rent on Cave's former small space, tucked in a decrepit Victorian building downtown, had increased at a modest rate, although that's only because it was on the second floor.
"I could not afford ground-floor rent, which had skyrocketed," he says. "I've always seen rent as marketing money, but every dollar you can save there, you can reach out to people through other means."
Nestled in a small line of low storefronts, the new Adam Cave Fine Art retains the intimacy of the old one but feels much more modern. With high white walls ranging across multiple levels, the space is also more flexible, and Cave thinks he'll be able to hang more art. It will be a significant change not only for his customers, who can take advantage of ample dedicated parking, but also for the artists he represents.
"This is a far more contemporary environment, and I like that. I don't think that 1890s building was the best environment to showcase Will Goodyear's work," Cave says, pointing to a painting by the Raleigh artist I'd admired on my way in. "Will is so excited about doing massive pieces on these big white walls. The art snob in me didn't want to be in a shopping center, and I feel like we've gotten some of those advantages without stepping over that line."
A group exhibit of artists Cave represents will be on view at the opening party this Saturday, followed by a Goodyear show in October. It's the perfect first solo exhibit for the space; Goodyear brings a sense of futuristic speed to architectural abstractions, conjuring images of a city in process.
Of course, being two miles outside of downtown means that Adam Cave Fine Art will probably no longer participate in First Fridays. For a more local-community-oriented gallery, that could be a death knell, but for a sales-driven business like Cave's, it's no big deal.
"All of us outside of major tourist destinations are destination businesses," he explains. "Visibility certainly never hurts, but the vast majority of people are coming with a mission."
Cave won't be lonely in Five Points for long. In October, Lee Hansley Gallery will move just a few minutes' walk away, into Dock 1053, a mixed-use warehouse at the intersection of Whitaker Mill Road and Atlantic Avenue.
Hansley, an accomplished curator and a dealer who specializes in canonical North Carolina art, is one of Raleigh's pioneering gallerists. He first set up shop twenty-five years ago, on the second floor of the Capital Club Building, when Raleigh had only a handful of galleries. Even then, parking was a problem.
"I had done all I could do there after seven years," Hansley says. "I was beginning to hear complaints about parking. When I moved out, I still had to go get my mail for about a month. I thought, Oh god, I've been doing this to my customers?"
That drove Hansley into his current space, in pre-gentrification Glenwood South, at a time when street parking was free. Seventeen years later, history is repeating itself.
"We've become victims of our own success," Hansley says, echoing Cave. "There's no parking anymore."
If Cave's move represents a major change for his gallery, Hansley's represents an even bigger one. He's trading a genteel, rambling Victorian cottage for a contemporary warehouse.
"It has eighteen-foot ceilings, clerestory windows, very industrial looking, with polished concrete floors," Hansley says. "But my focus will not change. I will still be in the forefront of defining the art history of the state." He plans to reopen with an exhibit of work by the late Melissa Brown sometime in October.
We usually interpret stories about urban development pushing out art as tragedies, but because of parking woes, these two galleries stand to fruitfully modernize their operations, and maybe even kick-start a new arts district outside of an inhospitable downtown. Sounds like a triumph to me.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Never Idle"