Two elderly artists painting.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The world of gallery artists is a young world. Mostly, it is full of either the young outbreak star, or the middle-aged men who were young outbreak stars thirty years ago and have done nothing but commit their lives to art since.

Marlena Vaccaro’s gallery is a craigy boulder in that youthful stream. Her space, the Carter Burden Gallery, has a strict policy. No artists under 60 need apply.

It’s not an issue that Vaccaro has invented; the agism of the art-world is well-documented. If an artist hasn’t had their big break by forty, it’s nearly impossible to get gallery space. Galleries claim they have to be able to sell the artist as much as their work, and an unknown who is also aged just isn’t marketable.

Which doesn’t leave any space on those gallery walls for the many, many artists who discovered time and talent together after their kids left the nest, or after their retirement.

One category that Vaccaro is specifically looking to show is the “re-emerging older artist.” Those who had lucky breaks in the art world thirty to forty years ago, but had to leave art for practicality and are only now returning.

The Burden Gallery’s model seems to be a valid one. Vaccaro says she receives about 25 portfolio submissions a month. Many are from artists too young to be eligible, but she keeps their names on file, marked with their 60th birthday. She’s still not lacking for eligible artists. In just a few years, the gallery has featured over 150 solo and group shows, and art sells from $425 to $9,000 a painting.

Vacarro’s gallery is backed by the Carter Burden Network, for which it is named. They provide aging services, mostly senior centers. The art gallery is a little outside of their usual wheelhouse, but the response from senior artists had made it clear that this is a service they were looking for.