Sat 2/17 @ 4-7PM
Apparently 1893 in Cleveland was a good year for starting out rock-solid structures and businesses. Not only was the Grays Armory building opened that year, but also The Bonfoey Gallery first opened its East 9th Street doors.
Now 125 years later, Cleveland’s premier contemporary art gallery and framing facility marks its quasquicentennial with a fun evening of champagne toasts and music at the Euclid Avenue location in the Cleveland theater district.
“It’ll be a celebration,” said gallery director Marcia Hall. “It’s mind-blowing we’ve been here that long.”
Today Bonfoey Gallery is viewed as a key player in the regional arts community, specializing in regional contemporary paintings, drawings, photographs, signed limited edition prints, sculpture and glass works from prominent artists in the region.
Also, Bonfoey Gallery has a roster of 100 artists with a consignment inventory of more than 2,000 works, while its large framing department makes up nearly two-thirds of its three-story, 15,000-square-foot location.
“One important thing we do is also help people realize in this area the work that’s created here is just as good as anything that’s available in New York City and Los Angeles,” Bonfoey Gallery assistant director Diane Schaffstein said.
“I think we’re proud to carry that flag for the area. Unfortunately, not many people do any longer. It’s tough to stay in business.”
Looking back, Bonfoey Gallery survived the Great Depression, a devastating fire (at its former East 4 and Prospect Avenue location, where you can still see an old sign painted on a building), the Euclid Corridor Project and the Great Recession.
It first opened as the Bonfoey Company at the tail end of the Gilded Age. One of its early clients was John D. Rockefeller, who later introduced Henry Ford to the burgeoning framer.
“The company was started by Asher D. Bonfoey,” Hall said. “He was a violinist with the original Cleveland Symphony. The company started with a valentine. He made a frame for a valentine for his wife, showed it to friends who liked what he did so it morphed into a business for him.
“So we started out just as framers. We’d also take in anybody’s artworks that they wanted framed. And dealers would come from Europe. We’d buy artwork from them.”
Bonfoey Gallery owner Richard G. Moore said his father, George, married into the family during the late ’20s and instantly loved the work.
“When he married my mother, a Bonfoey, he asked if he could come work there to see if he liked it or not,” Moore said. “And he did. So he borrowed money from my uncles and bought it in 1932.”
Richard not only added prints and artwork, but continued Bonfoey’s dedication to provide the best framing materials and highest quality work.
Then 40 years later, Moore took over the family business. Just as his father before him, he expanded Bonfoey Gallery to include offering art restoration, art appraisals, storage, shipping and installation. Also, there’s a focus on hand-carved frames, gold leafing and custom gilding.
“We have two finishers who do a spectacular job,” Hall said. “Combined they have probably 75 years of experience.”
Looking ahead, Moore is confident Bonfoey Gallery will be around well into the 22nd century.
“Oh, yes, I think it could go on for another 125 years,” Moore said.