PCS Clyde’s

Charles Froelick responds to criticisms

The Portland gallerist expresses "deep regret and apology" for comparing vaccine mandates to religious persecution.


Froelick Gallery, from the street.

Perhaps the most painful story on the Portland arts scene so far in 2022 has been the controversy over statements and actions by Charles Froelick, director of Froelick Gallery, and the resulting departure of half a dozen key artists from the gallery.

On Thursday morning, in an email headlined “My deep regret and apology” and addressed to two fellow gallerists and two members of the press, Froelick responded to criticisms:

“Recently I made the grave mistake of comparing past religious persecution with calls for ‘vaccination passports.’ It was insensitive and inappropriate. I feel tremendous remorse for any emotional pain this has caused in the Jewish community and beyond. I clearly lacked understanding of the Jewish experience and the impact that my words would have. My words did not match the principles of respect and tolerance that I have tried to embody throughout my life. For this I have great regret and am deeply sorry. I am learning from my mistakes, and sincerely hope for forgiveness and healing.”   

Froelick, a prominent longtime gallerist who has been a leader among the city’s commercial galleries in promoting and presenting work by contemporary Indigenous artists, has been involved in sharp opposition to coronavirus safeguards, including pulling his artists’ work from a charity auction over the charity’s masking and inoculation requirements (several of those artists then made art donations in their own names), and becoming involved in disputes about policies at two Jewish and Holocaust museums, including his gallery’s neighbor, the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education. Writer Jennifer Rabin has followed the events with stories here and here.

Froelick’s apology came shortly after Wednesday afternoon’s release of the following statement by the board of PADA, the Portland Art Dealers Association:

“The Portland Art Dealers Association is a business organization comprised of many of Portland’s principal galleries. PADA does not tolerate and strongly condemns racism and anti semitism by any of our members.

“Many of us have known Charles Froelick for over twenty years. We have known him as a responsible business owner and someone committed to his artists and worthwhile community causes.


All Classical Radio James Depreist

“Charles’ behavior and positions are of great concern to the members of PADA and are not consistent with the person we all know and respect.

“We have asked Charles to make a statement that explains his choices and outlines his plan for moving forward.”

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."


3 Responses

  1. This damage takes much more than a token paragraph apology.

    I would love to know how Charles is “learning,” perhaps what books he might be reading to understand and embody what standing up against anti-Semitism looks like, what community service he might offer, what hospital where he might volunteer to support exhausted nurses, what help he is getting to deprogram himself out of FOX News University. He has certainly put plenty of time and effort in steeping himself hook, line, and sinker in propaganda from extreme right-wing media.

    I am not saying anyone is beyond redemption or that people can’t make mistakes. But apologies need to be meaningful and demonstrated through continued actions. Time will certainly tell.

    “PADA does not tolerate and strongly condemns racism and anti-semitism [sic] by any of our members.” – except they did, until they were finally called out in Rabin’s second article. More than one of the blue chip gallerists is known to have expressed wanting the whole thing to just “blow over.” And they don’t address their own complicity in the insular nature of their club, and the policy of “not poaching” artists, and thus disadvantaging (i.e. blacklisting) artists – another underserved community with few rights or protections.

    One more thing I’d like to address is the emotional labor that writer Jennifer Rabin bore as a Jewish woman, to address the anti-Semitism piece of the story. Jennifer’s broad analytical and writing skills, as well as her fair-handedness in presenting the facts, served the articles exceptionally well, but it is unfortunate that someone outside the Jewish community did not take on the task. That is what being an ally to the community would actually look like.

    We have a ways to go here in our so-called “liberal” bastion of Portland. There is a difference between being anti-Semitic or “not a racist” in one’s own mind, and being an ally to the Jewish community or an ANTI-racist. It means actually standing up when attacks happen, not shrinking away while waiting for things to blow over.

    Those who are comfortable want things to stay comfortable (for them), at the expense of those who are not. If we SAY we want a more equitable world, we actually have to take action to make it so. Otherwise, mission statements, rhetoric, and apologies are just empty and transparent.

  2. In his statement, I don’t see how Froelick “explains his choices and outlines his plan for moving forward.” It reads like a pretty hollow apology to this art patron.

  3. I appreciate this apology by Charles, and we have had some deeper discussion about this. I know this apology to be heartfelt and honest. While no one apology can help heal a wound, I think it’s a good start for a wider dialogue around acceptance and love in our community. Charles has over the years represented many artists with a deep compassion towards the under-represented. No mistakes around this issue are too big that they can’t be overcome. I think many are feeling hurt and wounded around issues of inclusion or exclusion based on feelings about COVID. We are all healing and deserve the chance to work through difficult issues. I wholeheartedly support Charles and the artists and staff and feel hopeful about this healing process.

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