Gallery  June 19, 2024  Cynthia Close

Gallery 1261: Blending Tradition and Innovation in Denver’s Art Scene

Photograph by Wes Magyar; Courtesy of Gallery 1261

Gallery 1261 Interior

Location, as any real estate agent will tell you, plays an essential role in the potential success or failure of a business maintaining a brick and mortar operation in conjunction with an online presence. 

The expansive Gallery 1261 in Denver, Colorado occupies 1261 Delaware Street in the Golden Triangle Museum District, just two blocks away from the Denver Art Museum. This ideal location has undoubtedly contributed to the gallery’s survival for more than twenty years through the volatile art marketplace.

Gallery 1261 was founded in 2004 by local Denver artist David Uhl, whose paintings of motorcycle culture and the American West reflect a stylistic thread still evident in some of the work shown at the gallery today. 

Photograph by Wes Magyar; Courtesy of Gallery 1261

Gallery 1261 Interior

Uhl sought a partnership with Chris Mileham, an experienced gallery owner who started the well-respected Abend Gallery back in 1990. Now, both galleries are under one roof, sharing the same sprawling 6,300 square foot space.

Essentially a family-run business, management and ownership responsibilities are divided between Mileham and her brother, David Ethridge, who has served as Director of Gallery 1261 since 2010. The expanded curatorial team includes Vietnamese/American artist Quang Ho, who had his first one man show in Denver at the age of 16, a time when most teenagers are more interested in getting their driver’s license than mounting an exhibit of their own artwork. 

Ho balances his fine art painting with curatorial work, as well as illustration and teaching, at the Denver Art Students League. He is a great admirer of Andrew Wyeth, but his own painting exudes a gestural sensibility, more in tune with John Singer Sargent

Ho’s lush landscapes, still life, and figure paintings are also available for purchase through Gallery 1261.

The thirty-five artists featured in the Gallery 1261 online roster represent emerging and established fine artists with long exhibition track records. The emphasis is on figurative work with a respect for traditional craftsmanship gained through disciplined classical training. 

Although the New York and international art markets are often marked by radical swings in tastes and stylistic trends from the outrageous to the absurd, realism has maintained its appeal throughout the centuries. 

John Singer Sargent, 1885-1886

John Singer Sargent's "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose"

Particularly in times of economic downturn, art lovers and new collectors seem to be comforted by work where the technical skill is apparent and the subject matter is familiar. These elements are characteristic of the artists shown at Gallery 1261, although nonrepresentational work is also shown, and a wide range of price points accommodate most budgets.

While many of the artists at Gallery 1261 have a connection to Denver, most come from other states and continents— some as far away as Russia. For example, Daud Akhriev is a product of the Russian educational system, graduating with a master’s degree from the Russian Academy in Leningrad. 

He is fluent in mosaic, oil and watercolor painting, cast bronze sculpture, and ceramics. His works have won many awards and have been featured in both national and international magazines. Akhriev now divides his time between residences in Tennessee and Andalusia, Spain with his artist wife, Melissa Hefferlin.

Gallery 1261 artist Mia Bergeron initially attended Rhode Island School of Design for one year, but opted for a classical European approach and studied art for three years in Florence, Italy. Magic realism, a term usually applied to literature, seems relevant in describing the work of Bergeron, particularly her interest in capturing nature at night. 

Regarding the effect of the Covid shutdown on business, Ethridge had this to say, “Our sales slowed during the first month of the lockdown in March 2020, but then surged, reaching almost 200% over 2019 between 2020 and 2022…Our focus on online sales prepared us well, as many collectors turned to buying art online during the pandemic.”

Marketing is an area of the business that Etheridge is very involved in, “Our marketing approach has evolved significantly over the past 30 years. We now prioritize social media advertising and maintain a strong presence on marketplaces like Artsy and 1stDibs."

He continues, "While we still advertise in traditional magazines, it's less frequent. We also participate in art fairs and leverage our extensive email list and website. Originally, we sold primarily to our local neighborhood, but now we ship artwork globally, which requires us to market in many ways.”

Photograph by Wes Magyar; Courtesy of Gallery 1261

Gallery 1261 Interior

Traditionally, gallerists have stood as gatekeepers between their clients and the artists whose work they sell. However, Denver colleague and art consultant Rose Fredrick is looking to change that dynamic. In Gallery 1261’s newly-launched Rose Fredrick Project Space, Frederick showcases her expertise as a facilitator of relationships between artists and collectors.

Acting as a collaborator, she will develop special projects with select artists that will include the creation of collector experiences, opening the door to collectors and providing direct access to those artists whose work interests them. This innovative approach is a demonstration of Gallery 1261’s flexibility and willingness to embrace new ideas, which bodes well for their continued success.

Shop for art from Gallery 1261 at Art & Object Marketplace

About the Author

Cynthia Close

Cynthia Close holds a MFA from Boston University, was an instructor in drawing and painting, Dean of Admissions at The Art Institute of Boston, founder of ARTWORKS Consulting, and former executive director/president of Documentary Educational Resources, a film company. She was the inaugural art editor for the literary and art journal Mud Season Review. She now writes about art and culture for several publications.

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