Sullivan Goss is about to turn 30. In 1984, with her husband engaged as the founder and president of a large environmental engineering company and with a new baby girl, Patricia Sullivan Goss opened a gallery devoted to fine prints in Sierra Madre, California. In time, the program grew to include California painting and contemporary art.
In 1992, the original location was damaged beyond repair by the Landers Earthquake and Frank Goss sold his engineering firm. The couple reopened on State Street in Santa Barbara in 1993 as a bookstore gallery modeled on L.A.’s historic Zeitlin & Ver Brugge, a rare bookstore and gallery. The next year, they bought a vacant building at 7 East Anapamu Street and built out the space, devoting themselves to books on art and architecture and historic and contemporary California art. To the books and art, they added food and the Arts & Letters Café was born.
Gradually, they began to integrate themselves into the local art scene. First, they began to buy and sell the turnofthecentury plein air landscape paintings of National Academician Lockwood de Forest (18501932). Next, they began to show local artists like Jon Wilshire (19401999) and Robin Gowen (b. 1957). One day, the Estate of Don Freeman and Lydia Cooley came for sale and Frank Goss snapped it up. Patricia remembers him putting part of the purchase on credit cards, filling her with anxiety. The first exhibition proved a great success. Today, the gallery holds just one work from each of the artists – one from the original Estate and the other purchased on the secondary market.
From this, a business model was born. The gallery went on to acquire increasingly prestigious Artist’s Estates affiliated with Santa Barbara or California: Colin Campbell Cooper, Dan Lutz, Grace Vollmer, Ben Messick, Lyla Harcoff, and Nell Brooker Mayhew. Eventually, the gallery would come to own or represent Artist’s Estates with no local affiliation at all.
In 2004, as the economy began to recover from the Recession of the early 2000s, the gallery rebranded itself Sullivan Goss – An American Gallery, nodding ever so subtly to Alfred Stieglitz’ celebrated venue “AN AMERICAN PLACE.” It got out of the book business, removed dozens of bookshelves, and reopened with an exhibition of major American painters like Georgia O’Keeffe and Joseph Stella. Sales were brisk.
Major theme shows followed and the gallery’s roster of local and national contemporary artists grew over the years.
In 2006, the gallery expanded into the building at 11 East Anapamu to expand its offering of contemporary art. It opened with an exhibition that included Chuck Close and Leon Golub.
Having survived now three major economic recessions, having mounted hundreds and hundreds of monographic and curated thematic exhibitions, having helped train three dealers who’ve opened their own galleries, having conducted thousands of hours of art historical research, and having published dozens and dozens of catalogs and thirteen books, Sullivan Goss has begun to look like an institution. Indeed, the gallery’s proximity to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art leads many people who are new to the area to ask, “Is this part of the museum? What is the admission fee?”
In this, its 30th year, the gallery will present an exhibition of each of the gallery’s currently represented artists. Signature examples by each of these artists will be on view with stories of the gallery’s history. In addition, the gallery will exhibit photographs of many of its greatest patrons by local photographer Stacy Byers.
3:33 | Jeremy Tessmer