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Frey Norris Gallery

Moving to Greener Pastures

This winter, the SoMa arts hub is getting a new neighbor. Since 2003, the Frey Norris Gallery has built a reputation for its roster of contemporary artists working mainly out of California and Asia, but as of last Saturday evening, it’s doors are closed for a makeover and relocation.

Redubbed the Frey Norris Contemporary & Modern, and set for a grand reopening in February, a new 5,100-square-foot space is being constructed in an historic building in the middle of the Yerba Buena Arts District — home to SFMOMA, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and a number of private galleries.

The new gallery space on Jessie Street at New Montgomery is designed by local firm Gensler & Associates in collaboration with current Frey Norris artists, and sees owners Raman Frey and Wendi Norris doing away with the current spatial separation between contemporary and modern works, allowing the space to function as one cohesive body.

“A big impetus for the move was to bring those two galleries together on a more equal footing,” Norris says. “We have a large collector and client base who knows us for, say, our modern work, but we want people to become more aware of both the programs that we run here.”

Three large windows will make up the gallery’s mainly glass façade, speaking to the owners’ intention to entice curious passersby and art lovers with an initial sense of what’s inside, without giving away too much about any given exhibition.

“The space is developed in a way that no matter where you’re standing in the gallery, the sightlines are very inviting,” Norris says. “One part of the gallery reveals itself at a time — it’s not your standard giant box.”

“The most important thing is the accessibility and visibility,” Frey says. “It will allow our gallery to blossom and our artists who’ve been confined by the shape of the current space to think big, think varied, and make use of the architecture in different ways.”

The current Frey Norris roster includes artists based in California and abroad in Japan, Korea, China, Indonesia, and other Asian and Middle Eastern countries. Next year’s grand reopening will occur with an announcement of 2011-12 programs and special exhibitions, as well as an updated roster of emerging and established artists from an even wider cultural and geographical spread, including the gallery’s first showing from an Australia-based artist.

“From day one, we wanted the gallery to have a very global vision,” Frey says.

“Some of our newer artists are emerging and have never really been shown in a gallery, and others have four museum shows coming up next year,” Norris says. “We’re planning our exhibits in conjunction with at least twelve major museum exhibitions right now, which makes things a bit complicated, but it’s fun!”

As the new year unfolds, keep an eye on http://www.freynorris.com/ for more updates on the Frey Norris’ new digs and artistic programming.