"MCP has a mission
and a board of directors and a lot of things that make it much more
of a process, where he can have lunch with someone and make a decision."
That's about what happened with Alec Soth, now an internationally
exhibited photographer, who in the early '90s was a recent college
grad wondering what to do with a collection of barroom photographs.
He met with Christopherson in 1995.
"I showed him my portfolio, and boom, there was a show," Soth
recalled from his St. Paul studio.
"It was just incredible to have someone believe in me at that
point in my career, which was nothing. He believed in the work. ...
At that time, it was not about who do you know or anything else.
He responded to the work and I think his gallery functioned in a
sort of loose way. It's just what Howard likes, which is not the
way the bigger world works."
From his space in the Northrup King building, a warehouse full of
artists, to his willingness to bet on untried artists and veterans
primed for a review, Christopherson bucks expectations of what might
sustain a gallery.
"He's never done anything strictly by the book," said
MCP artistic director George Slade.
"He's persevered in the business despite many odds against
him and found ways to be resourceful and stay alive. ... He shows
work that is sometimes historical, that reflects work that hasn't
been seen. "
Christopherson agrees he's in the art business for something more
than the business.
"I'm not in it for the money," he said. "The
money gets in the way. It's not my favorite part of the business,
but it's what makes it all tick."
There's something in that homey enthusiasm about the art for its
own sake, rather than for the commissions or renown that some artists
"There's nothing sterile about Howard," said St.
Paul photographer Doug Beasley. "He's a well-loved character
in our art community, and our community thrives on characters. That's
what makes it interesting, and what keeps it from being sterile and
Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409