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Nan Miller opts to close gallery after 45 years

Nan Miller (Courtesy of Nan Miller Gallery)

Nan Miller (Courtesy of Nan Miller Gallery)

After 45 years in business Nan Miller Gallery is closing next month. Owner Miller plans to retire in September.

“I don’t think there’s ever a perfect time to retire,” she said. “It’s fulfilled my dream and I think I’m ready to start the rest of my life now.”

The gallery has a closing sale that opens to the public Monday. The sale and gallery are anticipated to close by September.

The Nan Miller Gallery moved to its 2,400-square-foot spot at 3000 Monroe Ave. in Pittsford in 2014.  It previously was in a 10,000-square-foot space at Winton Place in Henrietta.

The move has been the right one for the gallery. Miller plans to continue a connection to the art world by selling artwork on her website,

No one has come forward to purchase the gallery but Miller is open to it.

“I’m closing as the Nan Miller Gallery—if somebody else is interested in buying it let them approach me,” she said. “I will always be involved with the art community—it’s in my heart…but it’s time for me to be in my garden and go on some trips and just enjoy life in a little different way.”

Miller started out as an artist, a great background for running a gallery, she said.

“I loved art since I was in school,” she said. “I was attracted to color and the combinations of different colors. I realized I was pretty good at what I did as far as my drawings. A friend offered me the possibility of handling some work in my home. I was pretty good at selling but what I was really good at was just picking out what I thought was good.”

She and her husband, Howard, first opened the business in 1972 on Park Avenue.

“If you’re in a gallery, it gives you credibility,” Miller said. “We advertise for you, people who come in to see something else will see your work, it puts your work at a different level when you’re in a gallery.”

The industry has changed significantly since then; namely in the way the art is printed. Giclées—digital computer generated prints—are much more common now.

“I think all artists in general and galleries have changed over the years,” Miller said. “When I started the gallery business artists did prints, whether it was silkscreens, lithographs…now everybody does giclées (which) are the printing process of the 21st century.”

Many of Miller’s competitors have gone out of business, she said.

“What has happened is the artist is much more in control of his career,” Miller said. “I think in some ways, but the loss of it is the galleries aren’t backing the artists quite as much. So it’s very different now. There’s a lot of art fairs, there’s a lot of communication on the internet but the artist has to do a lot of this himself.”

The internet has shaken up the way art is purchased but customer service can be lost in the transaction, said Lee Pollan, faculty member at the University of Rochester Medical Center at the Eastman Institute of Oral Health, is a longtime customer and friend of Miller.

“Her closing and retiring is going to leave a huge void for people in the Rochester area who are collectors,” he said. “The reality is you can buy artwork online if you’re willing to do that, but Nan and the people in her gallery provided a personal service that I don’t think you can get online as far as coordinating with your decor in your home or your office or picking out pieces that might look appropriate with pieces that you already own.”

The gallery employs seven people, including the co-owners, Miller and her husband. The staff—most of whom have been with the business for decades—are evaluating opportunities elsewhere.

The gallery has focused on showcasing the work of Modern Masters of the abstract expressionist period such as Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler and Paul Jenkins.

“I am sad to see the gallery closing but am extremely happy for Nan and Howard to be able to enjoy the freedom and fun that retirement will bring them,” said Zeke Duda, a longtime customer and friend of Miller. “The community will certainly miss the high quality artists and art that Nan has introduced us to. Her eye for talent is unrivaled (and) her gallery as good as any in New York City.”

Artists the gallery has helped develop over the years include Romero Britto, Albert Paley, Hamilton Aguiar and Jeanne Lindsay.

“I’ve probably known (Britto) for at least 30 years and I knew him when he was painting out of his garage and now he’s probably one of the largest world-renowned pop artists that is alive,” Miller said. “I really like to be able to help an artist with his or her career. From being an artist in my own sense, it helped give me a better eye and helped me make some of the correct selections along this journey.”

Running a successful gallery for over four decades is a testament to Miller’s passion and know-how, Pollan said.

“Nan provided a huge service a very valuable service by providing a personal touch for her clients,” he said. “She’s going to be missed.”

One of Miller’s favorite events over her tenure was the 1999 event for the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation where Miller showcased the work of Britto.

She met celebrities such as Elton John, Steve Wonder, Luther Vandross, Gloria Estefan, LeAnn Rimes and Agassi while promoting Britto’s pieces. The event raised over $4 million for children in need.

“It was just outrageous; that was probably one of the highlights, one of the most fun events,” Miller said.

Miller is not only a business owner. She is someone with a customer’s best interest in mind, Duda said.

“Nan got to know you and your tastes, which allowed her to tailor her recommendations, as well as introduce you to artists you had not heard of,” he said. “She never tried to sell you something you weren’t crazy about for investment purposes alone.  Her integrity and honesty and great personality made it easy to work with her. She taught me—a novice who only knew what he liked—how to differentiate between good and great art.”

“I think, most importantly, Nan operated with the belief that great art can be affordable, and that everyone can and should enjoy the beauty, energy and passion that great art can give you,” he added.

Competing with the online arena has been difficult, Miller said. Art is meant to be experienced in person.

Miller is happy to have helped bring art to Rochester. She also believes the local community is a vibrant place for artists.

“I have an incredible team behind me and without them I would have never succeeded the way that I have,” she said.

Art is all over society. The artwork people choose to adorn their homes with should evoke some emotion from them, Miller said.

“I think people should buy art because they love how it makes them feel,” she said. “And if something can turn into an investment piece, fine, but you buy art from your gut and what you think and it should make you feel good.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4020

(c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-363-7269 or email [email protected].


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