Change is the only constant in life, and the best thing to do is embrace it. Brent Beamon has done just that. During the 14 years he has been with Flowers Gallery, he has seen its stable shift from emerging and underexposed British artists working largely in painting and sculpture to an international roster that is more than a third comprised of photographic arts. Beamon, the director of Flowers’s New York venue, is enthusiastic about the gallery’s photographic expansion. “We show the kind of artists who don’t want to be categorized with other artists whose work looks just like theirs,” he says. “Our painters and photographers are so different, but you can also say that they are alike in their social concerns, their cultural issues. Ultimately, all of our artists have a kind of humanity about them and that what’s important; the contrast serves to bring that out. It helps to diversify.”
Beamon, 41, grew up in the small town of Burlington, N.C., in a well-schooled, academic household – his mother was a college professor and his father was a high-school teacher and coach. While he was still a teen, a formative trip abroad to London with his mother and her college students whet his appetite for all things cultural. He enrolled at nearby NC State University to pursue art, but also another longtime interest: zoology. “It was my plan to go on to veterinary medicine,” he says. “It would have been more practical, but I soon realized that to do that I would also have to be able to euthanize animals, and I was too sensitive for that.” He took a year off to study in London and New York and came back to NC State and earned degrees in zoology and in a multidisciplinary-studies major he crafted himself, called “The Arts, Mass Culture, and Consumerism.” “At that point I knew I had to pursue my dream of living in New York,” says Beamon, “only I didn’t realize how difficult it was to get an apartment in the city.” Healthy compromises, and lots of kismet, ensued. He moved in with a cousin in Connecticut and commuted daily into Grand Central station, where he worked retail at the J. Peterman store, making the best of his situation. When Peterman closed up shop he returned to Burlington, only to get phone calls from two of the store’s former managers, one asking if he’d like to share an apartment in Brooklyn; the other asking if he’d like to work at the Edward Carter Gallery in SoHo managing the photography inventory. The answer to both was: Yes, of course.
Beamon stayed at the Carter Gallery for four years, eventually becoming managing director. He was all of 24. “I learned a lot about how the business worked: what to do, and what not to do,” he says. “I did a good job of meeting the challenges and really enjoyed working with the artists.” In 2003, the gallery closed, and Beamon was left with a decision. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay with it, but then I answered an ad on Craigslist for a gallery manager at Flowers’s [then] new Madison Avenue location.” Beamon went to the interview and had the job within a week. “They have been loyal to me, and I to them,” he says. “We’ve navigated many challenges together; we are almost like a family.”