Various Venues

Brilliant but brief describes the existence of an art gallery in Portland—and no gallery could have had a shorter, more dazzling career than the Garden Gallery which closed this week after 10 roller-coaster months of operation.

Located in a posh area near the southwest outskirts of the city, it was opened last December by William C. Kremmel, a former interior decorator. The little enterprise, sandwiched into a shopping center, offered for sale literally everything from mosaic murals to manure (dried). Yet, with lucrative sidelines of garden supplies, the Garden Gallery failed. In so doing it joined the 1962 Roster of The Defunct which now includes the very professional New Gallery of Contemporary Art, run by Ron O. Peterson, and the sometime professional Collectors Gallery, which was maintained by Dr. John Runckel.

The Garden Gallery, however, had more than what one would call ordinary troubles. Four days before its grand opening, Proprietor Kremmel was involved in a collision which sent his buglike auto and himself end over end into a ditch. Because of the wreck, nearly half of the 2,000 invitations the car was carrying were destroyed and a number of ceramics and sculptures forever lost. About the only people who didn’t grieve were those who had already received their invitations. . . . More than 1,000 of them—gastronomes all—showed up to pack the circus tent that Kremmel had erected on the parking lot in front of his gallery the night of December 16. And what a night it was, too. Outside the tent, the wind never subsided much below hurricane force, and the rain, coming down in a nearly solid sheet, created several swiftly rushing brooks that wended their irregular, tumultuous ways across the lot’s pavement and into the Big Top. Smoke from 48 Tiki torches set up that evening in the tent where art works were on display—and a Roman-style buffet in progress—made viewing somewhat difficult if not outright hazardous until Kremmel hastily replaced them with six dozen tall tapers.

As we recollect, from then on, guests were able to roam around the “islands of art”—but certainly at their own risk whenever it involved venturing close to either the lighting or heating systems. Early that night, a tubbed fir tree, used as part of the decor, tipped in the wind, caught fire, and set to warming a guest by igniting his $275 Vicuna coat. Another expensive wrap was seared up the backside when its owner leaned against a lighted candle. Yet another visitor wound up with a pint-sized Bronzini when he leaned too far over a lighted brazier. Those who mistook the 30-foot long charcoal brazier for a gravel walk during the Fir Tree Panic found the dangers very real, too. The destructive highlight of that storm-tossed eve, however, was the damage the wayward gusts of wind wrought to sculpture and pottery on display. While sometime-Portland sometime-San Francisco painter Milton Wilson substituted for Frederick Heil at the Wurlitzer in Kremmel’s gallery, various draft-driven clay objets d’art toppled to the pavement—their resounding crashes providing appropriate obligati. Amid this opening night chaos, there were a number of artists whose works were insured. They looked on happily. But not William Kremmel. Following the party, during which 3,000 finger sandwiches, 500 pounds of turkey, 25 hams and 50 cases of champagne were consumed, Kremmel spent the next 22 days in the hospital recovering from injuries suffered in the accident several days before.

As soon as his attorney clears up problems with seven insurance companies over the destroyed Vicuna, the Bronzini, and assorted ceramics and sculpture, Kremmel is planning to return to his first love—decorating. A room to be called Interlude and used for the purpose of quiet meditation will be his to design for the Decors de Maison show to be held in October at the Marylhurst Convent.

MISCELLANY: An exhibition of medieval Mideastern art works, organized by the staff of Portland Art Museum, will travel under the museum’s aegis in 1963. The display of 188 items includes scripts, 15th and 16th century Rajput and Mughal miniature paintings, books and pottery, all lent for an extended period to the museum by Edwin Binney, III, of Brookline, Mass. Dr. Francis J. Newton, director, says that 91 objects will make the trip. An illustrated catalog, Persian and Indian Miniatures will accompany the assemblage.

Andy Rocchia