THE TASTEMAKER


Charles A. Hartman Hartman Fine Art


 

charles hartman portrait
Image: Adam Levey
Hunched over a concave wooden table lodged between two wall-size photographs—one depicting Cairo as a bustling desert cityscape, the other fixated on its Bedouin origins—Charles Hartman is trying to explain the gravity of his job.

“To me, art is one of the few things you buy and own forever,” the 38-year-old gallerist says, laboring intently over each word. “Over time, the object doesn’t change, but your perception of the object changes—it’s a powerful thought.”

He pauses. “Wait. That sounds cheesy, doesn’t it?”


Not really. In fact, while some gallerists are either shameless promoters or struggling scenesters, Hartman’s even-keeled, almost sedate confidence is subtly engaging, deftly straddling the line between salesman and trusted connoisseur. It might explain why the seven vintage Ansel Adams photographs of various winter landscapes are hanging in the stairwell leading to his office: They aren’t positioned to sell, but they certainly look good.


“I need to eat,” Hartman explains, pointing to the glass frames filled with seasonal black-and-white scenery, “but I’m not a raging capitalist.”


The bulk of the work shown and sold at Hartman Fine Art, located at 134 NW Eighth Ave, are photographs that concentrate on the world outside of Portland: from historically significant photographs by Edward Weston and Aaron Siskind to provocative, claustrophobic nudes by Tokyo-based Emi Anrakuji. Hartman’s unique ability to show and move such sought-after pieces (which are priced from $800 to more than $15,000) is thanks largely to his thick Rolodex.


“If somebody walks in and wants an Elliott Erwitt, I can get it for them with a couple of calls,” Hartman says. “Same thing if somebody comes in looking for something hard to find by Ansel Adams—three or four calls. Max.”


Hartman just wrapped an exhibition of Eadweard Muybridge’s landmark motion-capture experiments from the late 1800s, and in October he’ll debut a rare nonphotography show featuring the line drawings of Los Angeles native Jessica Curtaz. This spring, he’ll deviate from his usual course even further when he dedicates his gallery to the paintings and mixed-media efforts of local artist Eva Speer. “I’m not going to show someone just because they’re local—enough galleries already do that,” he says. “To me, it’s more exciting to look at local artists against a national context.” Another pause. “That doesn’t sound too highfalutin, does it?” —BB