The lower level of Glenn Aber’s longtime home in Purchase is lined with fine contemporary art from all over the world. For years, it has served as a gallery, and he’s built a loyal clientele and a successful business. But he’s coming up from the basement more often because he is opening a gallery in downtown Rye on October 26.
One day last week we watched as his crew applied the final coat of paint to the walls of 11 Purdy Avenue. Earlier this week, we returned and discovered a sleek, art-filled space. In addition to installations of fashionable metal dress sculptures, part of a series by Chattanooga artist John Petrey, and of magical glass sculptures by San Diego artist Tom Marosz, the works of some 25 international artists are on display at Ai Bo Gallery.
Aber, who grew up in Long Island, went into the textile business when he was 23. He and a partner rented space on West 37th Street. “When Communism was collapsing in the 1980s we starting buying textile mills in Eastern Europe, and were able to bring home extraordinary fabrics at inexpensive prices,” Aber recalled.
After his partner died in a boating accident, Aber, then 48, sold the business. “I soon realized I was too young to retire. I started playing golf, but I missed putting my abilities, my experiences to good use.”
He found his way back through his son, who decided to take a year off from college and live in Costa Rica. “My son visited an orphanage there and sent me a video. We brought a 4-year-old disabled child up to live with us. She was barely able to crawl. She needed surgery. By the time she returned home, she was walking,” recounted Aber, who gives 10 percent of his profits to the Hogar de Pan Orphanage and to the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Valhalla.
It was his wife, Francine, who teaches English at Byram Hills High School, that piqued his interest in representing artists. “Francine was reading an article about the art coming out of Hanoi in the New York Times’ Arts and Leisure section and turned to me and said, ‘Do something with the rest of your life. Travel to Asia and buy art.’ So, I started with Vietnamese art. That was 17 years ago.”
Aber met directly with the artists and bought 15 paintings the first day, 250 over a period of 18 months. Soon, he was doing art shows in Palm Beach, Los Angeles, Miami — seven, eight, or nine a year — and had set up a home gallery.
At his son’s wedding in Korea, Aber met Alice Sung, whose two children are students at New York University. “She’s moving to Rye and will run the gallery with me,” he reported with the enthusiasm of a young man just starting his first job.
It was F. Scott Fitzgerald who wrote, “There are no second acts in life.” Glenn Aber, at age 75, is proof positive that a bright and talented and happily married individual can find a way forward through the landscape of life.
Ai Bo Gallery will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 to 7. You can reach Glenn Aber at 914-263-7500.