By Pamela Wells
The Potomac Gazette
Wednesday, November 10, 1999
"Reprinted with permission from the Potomac Gazette"
Driven by outrageous prices, poorly presented material and lack of original work, Catriona Fraser of Potomac decided to fill a gap she saw in the art market
"I love art," Fraser said. "It hurts me to see artwork that is badly presented. often, I see artwork in galleries that is poorly presented. The prices are outrageous and not originals."
This frustration led Fraser to open the Fraser Gallery in Georgetown in October 1996. The gallery, which features one artist a month, gives unknown artists a chance to shine.
"It was faith that led me to this in the D.C. market... I wanted to fill that void. I wanted to give people an alternative with the art."
Three years later, maybe it was this faith or simply hard work that has distinguished the Fraser Gallery as one of Washington's top fine arts galleries.
"The Fraser Gallery is one of the hardest working galleries around in terms of selling and promoting their artists," said Micael Sullivan, a writer for the Washington Post who reviews museum exhibits. "Each gallery is different, but the Fraser Gallery does an excellent job at exposing affordable art."
One way that Fraser helps keep the gallery going is by using the sale of her own photographs. Her work is black and white portraits of castles and cemeteries.
"I travel to Scotland once a year," Fraser said."I go by myself. I drive around and walk. I take pictures of the different stones, castles and scenery that I see."
Fraser said she sells only 100 copies of each print. Her images are shot on infrared film, which shows more contrast than typical black-and-white film.
She said her gallery prides itself on giving all artists a chance. "We have original work in our gallery," she said. "Everything in the gallery is realistically priced. A lot of it is under $1,000. We pride ourselves on having art that is original and not mass-produced," she said. "We show a mixture of artists."
Fraser, who owns the gallery with her husband, freelance art critic and artist F. Lennox Campello, described what she thinks has given the gallery this distinction. "I think it's many things that have put us on the top," Fraser said. "I'm consistent with the quality of works that I put out. I put on shows that educate the artists, collectors and the public. Fraser Gallery is more than just a place to buy art."
Fraser, who is a photographer, said she loves working with artists. Holding seminars is one way she says she assists the artists in her gallery."I help guide careers," she said. "When an artist comes into my gallery, many times they don't know how to go about getting their work out there for the public to see. I spend time with them talking about representation and the importance of having a body of work. I try to give everyone who comes into my gallery individual attention."
This entrepreneur talks about her vision with the gallery. "Many times you see art in people's homes that they buy to match the furniture. I don't sell that type of artwork. I sell art that people can live with."
Fraser also wants her gallery to help the artists displayed there. "I want to help other artists get a break in the industry," Fraser said. "I'm tired of seeing people who do this for a hobby. I show artists that take art seriously and are very dedicated to their material."
Fraser smiles as she speaks about her calling with the gallery. "I feel like I'm doing a public service," Fraser said. "People spend thousands of dollars on reproductions. It's sad to see people spend that much on artwork that is not archival. It really bothers me to see that."
Although Fraser jokes about the gallery being a calling for her, there may be some truth to it. "I often ask myself, why do I want to do this," Fraser said. "We don't make a profit here. We barely break even. I do this because I enjoy it. I don't expect this to make me rich."
Fraser said her gallery fills a niche in the art market. "When I went house hunting in Potomac a year ago, I couldn't believe the amount of homes which didn't have artwork," Fraser said. "I found it interesting that in an affluent area like this, artwork was lacking. I'm hoping to educate people here about art. I want people to see how art has and continues to be a vital part of our world."
© Copyright 1999 The Potomac Gazette