Thursday, July 21, 2011
...Today, at the Reception
I wanted to take a quick second to pour some on the curb for the Govinda Gallery, which I just learned had quietly closed its doors last month.
No parties, no grand farewell. Just a tasteful exit, stage right. Perhaps celebratory beers at the Tombs. Seems fitting.
It appears from the Washington Post article that gallery owner, Chris Murray, decided that it was time to move on, well, because it was time. And, honestly, is there ever a better reason?
“It just seemed like the perfect moment,” he told the Post. “This was the completion of a 35-year cycle.”
Its a refreshingly dignified way to bring things to a close.
The Govinda was a favorite of mine because it specialized in something that was right up my alley: music-themed photography.
And while a lot of the subjects could be grouped into that awfully-named catch-all genre called "classic rock", I think that totally undersells the breadth of work that Murray featured. Because the Govinda's exhibits included just about anything and everything: jazz, punk, glam, reggae, hip-hop, skater, you name it. Entire shows about one photographer, entire shows about on artist or band, entire shows themed around a genre, city or musical movement. If photographers documented it and if it was worth showing, Murray got it on the walls.
Situated just off of Prospect Street in Georgetown, the Govinda was just barely tucked away enough to be considered a hidden gem. The place was usually quiet, the staff was always friendly, and I was consistently happy with whatever I saw when I'd drop in.
I have to admit that I'll miss it.
If you live in a city long enough (especially a transient city like Washington, D.C.), you do learn to accept that your favorite haunts won't last forever. Each and every city, in fact, is host to a never ending parade of ghosts of the memories of good times, of safe times, of happy times that took place in long gone - and not so long gone - bars, clubs, shops, bookstores, and restaurants. (Ask three generations of Reilly boys about their favorite memories on the 3300 block of Connecticut Avenue, and it would be very possible that they'd all point you to the same building, with three different memories of three different establishments.)
People come and go, rents go up, and places turn over. You accept it, but sometimes it stings.
Because when I think back on the old Metro Cafe or Signal 66 or Visions Cinema and Cafe, I really do find myself missing those late, late nights at art parties and Britpop dance nights, spent nearly ten years ago with my new girlfriend at the time (now my new wife).
When I think back on the recently closed Commonwealth Gastropub, I remember a fantastic birthday spent in the company of close friends and many rounds of Belhaven Twisted Thistle Ale.
Springsteen and the Ramones might have played at the old Childe Harold in Dupont Circle back in the 70's, but for me, it will always be the scene of the crime for the single most disastrous date of my life.
The old Black Cat location? Where to even begin... It's quite possible that I had more fun in that one building than anywhere else on Earth.
When I think back on the Govinda Gallery, what will I remember?
I'll remember how they never seemed to mind when I'd browse through their library, often sitting cross legged on the floor of the gallery for the better part of an hour, poring over Dominique Tarle's Exile. Everyone who ever saw me do it knew full well that I couldn't afford to buy the book, but no one ever complained.
I'll remember seeing Bejing punks, PK-14 do one of their very first American shows in the Gallery, to an absolutely packed crowd. And I'll remember chatting with their drummer out on 34th street, telling him how much I wanted to visit China, and listening him to implore me to just skip Shanghai and go straight to Beijing. (I did both cities anyway).
And most of all, I'll remember a fantastic summer afternoon when my girlfriend (wife) and I popped in on a Saturday to check out a new Mick Rock exhibit. There were maybe four people in the gallery besides us, including a tallish, curly-haired and very enthusiastic Brit, who was fully holding court with some very tall tales I was only half listening to.
He caught my attention when he strode up to a gorgeous print of Syd Barrett, posing on the hood of a classic automobile.
"THIS," the Brit announced. "Is my favorite." He went on to describe losing the photo for years and years, and only discovering it relatively recently, under his nose in his flat all of these years.
"Holy shit," I muttered, grabbing my girlfriend's arm. "That's him. That's Mick Rock."
As I puttered around the gallery star-struck, Rock made his way to the door with a friend, announcing to the lovely young woman who always worked the desk that they'd be stepping out for a pint.
"Was that Mick Rock," I asked the lovely attendant.
She smiled. "He pre-signed a bunch of his books over there if you're interested."
That'll always be the Govinda to me: cool, connected, friendly, and understated.
And always in excellent taste.