Lisa Sette: 2014 Urban Legend Award, Visual Art
In honor of the fifth annual Big Brain Awards, New Times is recognizing five Urban Legends, established creative pioneers who have made Phoenix a better, cooler place.
Andrew Pielage Lisa Sette shows the raw space that will soon house her gallery.
From its earliest days, Lisa Sette Gallery has always been a grown-up -- even when its proprietor and namesake was still a kid.
As Old Town Scottsdale battled a reputation as a place to buy kokopellis and howling coyotes and downtown Phoenix struggled to keep a handful of galleries afloat at all, Lisa Sette quietly made a national and international reputation for herself as a gallerist who showed only the finest contemporary art -- always with her own elegant appeal, and often from Arizonans like James Turrell and Angela Ellsworth, artists with reputations as storied as her own.
Andrew Pielage Sette and her dog visit the new gallery space.
But today, as New Times prepares to present Sette with a well-deserved award for her leadership in the visual arts, we could just as easily present her with our prize for Urban Vision, as the recent news that Sette is leaving Scottsdale for midtown Phoenix is almost as exciting as any of the shows her gallery has hosted in its 28 years.
Sette began her gallery career in the living room of her Tempe home, showing the work of Arizona State University students. She later set up shop in two different spots on Mill Avenue, until one day the late attorney and art collector Sy Sacks walked into her small space and famously asked, as Sette recalls, "What the bleep are you doing here?"
Her response: "Who the heck are you?"
And his: "You should move to Scottsdale!"
The rest is history -- and will be one for the books when Sette's final Scottsdale show, of the work of painter Carrie Marill, closes. The first Phoenix show, entitled, "Hello Midtown!" will open this summer in an Al Beadle building near Third Street and Thomas that is now being renovated.
Sette has plans to shroud the semi-subterrarean building in fabric. Beadle's signature beams will stay exposed. There will be plenty of wall space in a setting that makes sense in the desert and Sette is excited about a lot of things -- including the fact that she will finally have a kitchen for her staff to use. (Previously they washed dishes in the bathroom of the Scottsdale gallery, which Sette says someone told her makes the room a "shnitchen.")