You have to give credit for adventure in a city like Birmingham, Alabama. So when local collector John David Conley and artist Karim Shamsi-Basha partnered to form Tandem Gallery it was something to notice. Having just completed its second exhibition, an innovative show of works and site-specific paintings by Amy Pleasant, it seems clear that the emphasis at Tandem will be on shows that are critically and curatorially innovative, with the possibility of creating a larger market for contemporary works at the same time.
What is key about Tandem Gallery is that it is precisely that - a gallery - and the owners and directors have made the conscious decision to focus on contemporary art rather than place their emphasis in other areas. While this has the potential to be a risky venture, one has to applaud their determination. Birmingham seems to be creating a legacy of spaces that are deeply committed to contemporary culture without necessarily regarding its inherent challenges. One need only think of the late-lamented StealthArts, founded by Clayton Colvin, which for two years showed fresh exhibitions in a space one would have to see to even begin to imagine. Colvin has taken that energy to Space 301 in Mobile, Alabama (where you can catch his newly opened curated exhibition Registering the Invisible.) Conley and Shamsi-Basha have a fantastic space, the artworld connections to bring genuinely exciting works to Birmingham, and the "aw-shucks" modesty that can actually drive a business, and a communiity, into believing that they actually love contemporary art - something that is not necessarily easy with the largest of audiences in the most progressive cities or towns.