“You don’t sell art . Art sells itself.”
That is how Susan Benjamin explains the guiding philosophy of the Syd Entel Galleries and probably why it has become such a spectacular success. Now celebrating its 35th birthday in Safety Harbor, Syd Entel Galleries and Susan Benjamin Glass have become a showcase for contemporary artistic talent from around the world and have brought the “art of the masters” to the Tampa Bay area.
To celebrate the occasion, the galleries are planning to exhibit some of the artists who have brought art lovers to the place again and again through the years. Leroy Nieman, James Rizzi, Thomas Arvid, Peter May and Russian-born Erté will all have works on display as will the outstanding glass artists Duncan McClellan, Susan Gott and James Nowak.
Receptions are nothing new for the Syd Entel Galleries, and many renowned artists have come there for special events and signings. One of the most recent is Maya Eventov, whose works have been shown in the Galleries for the past ten years. Special invitations went out to customers who purchased her work, and many were thrilled to meet the artists whose works now grace the walls of their homes. One new customer selected a Maya painting during the reception and is eager to enjoy it for years to come.
Syd Entel herself is no longer directly involved with the day-to-day operation of the Galleries that continue to bear her name, but she still works with her daughter Susan by writing newsletter articles and inspiring the same discriminating taste for quality art that inspired her to open the Galleries in the first place.
Through the years, Syd Entel and Susan Benjamin have gained an outstanding reputation in the fine art community. Syd helped start the Dunedin Fine Arts Center and has a wing named in her honor that promotes local artists. She also was involved in selecting art for display at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Susan currently serves on the Board of the Dunedin Fine Arts Center and considers it an “excellent art influence for the greater community.”
The story of this remarkable business began even before the move to Safety Harbor when Syd Entel started a part-time business called “Contemporary Limited Editions” on the 11th floor of the 1100 Building in Clearwater. With an elevator to her showroom and a clientele that for the most part was already familiar with the art world, Syd determined to set out for a place where more people could learn about art and benefit from the experience.
She chose Safety Harbor because of its easy access for customers coming from Tampa and because of the wide variety of people who came to the area to visit Safety Harbor Resort and Spa from across the nation and around the world.
Her first showroom in Safety Harbor was located in the Bongo’s Building, in a storefront that is now the home to Bongo’s Gift Shop. It was there in 1980 that she began to exhibit art in Safety Harbor. As the business grew, she decided to build a more suitable showroom, and Syd Entel Galleries opened at its current location in 2001.
At first she shared the unique art deco building with two other tenants, and when Susan Benjamin first began exhibiting her beloved glass, an architect’s office separated mother and daughter. Visitors had to travel back and forth between the two display rooms. But when the architect moved to a different location, the family knocked down some walls and opened a spectacular 5500-sq. ft. gallery that has primarily art with a few glass pieces in one section and primarily glass with a little art and some fine-art jewelry in another.
Unlike many gallery owners, Susan Benjamin purchases all the art that is on display herself, so it is not there on consignment. This means that Susan personally selects and owns the art on display when she travels to the New York Art Exposition as well as Chicago, Miami and Atlanta to find quality pieces. She also goes to Seattle, a center for glass artists, to choose fine glass works.
“The art business is changing because of the internet,” Susan explains, “but I like to see the art we exhibit in person. Often, what looks good on the internet does not bring the same emotional response as the works when I see them first-hand.”
The works on display in the Galleries range in price from as low as $100 to several thousands of dollars. The words “Extraordinary…Distinct…Unique” have been used to describe the Syd Entel Galleries. We might want to add another descriptive phrase — “Simply Wonderful!”