There have been some strange goings-on at Hagedorn Foundation Gallery, which, depending on whom you ask, may or may not have abruptly closed on March 6. The gallery’s website now says it is open by appointment only, and neighbors confirm that it has been closed during normal business hours.
Former director Brenda Massie, who’s been with the gallery for about five years, says she was called on March 6 by Paul Hagedorn’s assistant and told that she would no longer be working there, the gallery was closing, and the locks would be changed. She’s heard nothing since then. “I know nothing,” Massie says, “they didn’t give me a reason.” She said that the gallery’s artists and clients have been calling her to find out what’s going on.
In response to our queries to the gallery, Hagedorn representative Suzanne Shaw contacted BURNAWAY to assert that the gallery has not closed and is open for business but will be transitioning to an online model as of June 1. “Paul will also have a small gallery in his home, open by appointment,” says Shaw.
The gallery was midway through the run of shows by Landon Nordeman and Katherine Sandoz when operations were disrupted. Shaw says those shows will continue, as planned, through April 11.
According to Jules Bekker, of the neighboring TEW Galleries, the space has been locked and shuttered over the past week or two. “We have had to field questions” by visitors attempting to access Hagedorn, she says. Bekker’s husband, Phil Bekker, has shown with Hagedorn and recently retrieved his work from the gallery. Gallery assistant Anna Akpele is said to be visiting the space on occasion to check phone messages and take care of various matters.
While financial distress is usually the reason for a gallery’s closing, especially in Atlanta, “we did really well in January and February, and had strong sales on the books the week we closed,” says Massie. Additionally, Paul Hagedorn owns the building on Peachtree Hills Avenue where the gallery is located, so rent was not a consideration.
Though considered a “vanity gallery” because Paul shows his own photographs in the space, Hagedorn has had a good reputation for showing strong work by local and international artists. Steve Aishman, a photography professor and dean of academic services at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, had a successful show there late last year, as did Peter Bahouth. Other notable Atlanta artists who have exhibited with Hagedorn include Lucinda Bunnen, Nancy Floyd, Ruth Dusseault, and Christina Price Washington.
According to a July 10, 2008, story in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Hagedorn opened his gallery in 2008 as a vehicle to fund local charities. Heir to the Scotts Miracle-Gro fortune and a former executive at Coca-Cola and Eastman Kodak, he is not a trained artist but his work has been collected by the High Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, and the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens.
The article says that in establishing the gallery he received support and advice from Lucinda Bunnen, former High Museum photography curator Julian Cox, and lawyer friend Bertram Levy of the firm Arnall Golden Gregory. The gallery was originally structured so that Hagedorn would be giving away 100 percent of the proceeds from his own work and a portion of proceeds from the other artists’ work, so that collectors could claim a 100-percent tax deduction on purchases. Whether and how much that arrangement changed is unclear. Stay tuned.