Michaela Pilar Brown

Columbia contemporary art venue if ART Gallery sold to local artist, 701 CCA director

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Columbia’s if ART Gallery, a contemporary art gallery with local and international artists represented, was sold to the executive director of the 701 Center for Contemporary Arts.

Michaela Pilar Brown purchased the gallery started by Wim Roefs, the gallerist and owner who died unexpectedly in May. Located in the Vista neighborhood, if ART is one of the de facto hubs for contemporary art in Columbia, alongside Brown’s 701CCA — which Roefs helped found and acted as the initial executive director of.

The sale was announced in an Aug. 24 press release.

“I had a great admiration for Wim and the work he did for if ART and establishing emerging artists,” Brown said in an interview. “I didn’t want to see this space go away.”   

With Brown’s purchase, she detailed that it would result in her leaving her post as the director of 701CCA near the end of the year. Until then, she plans to help facilitate the transition to whomever is hired, continue its programming and operate the gallery.

The release detailed that the if ART gallery would be reduced to its original size in the room visitors enter, which features a loft and gallery space. Brown said this meant that the types of events and art that it could hold would be downscaled to accommodate the smaller size. 

After Roefs founded if ART in 2006, he greatly expanded its size in the years following.

Roefs, who was known as honest and direct in his professional dealings, was widely credited with bridging the gap between classical and contemporary art in Columbia, particularly between his two roles opening if ART and co-founding 701CCA. 

The gallery also became home to highly regarded avant garde and free jazz performances by musicians from around the country and, at times, the world. However, those performances were held in the adjoining space, which will no longer make up the gallery.

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