About Ambergris Gallery
Ambergris the Gallery
Ambergris the Substance
Gillian von Nieda Beebe opened Ambergris Gallery on Block Island, Rhode Island, on July 4, 2010. Her mission is to to discover, gather, show, and sell the work of talented artists from elsewhere, bringing unexpected art to an already vibrant creative community.
The gallery's name, Ambergris, is meaningful in many ways. Ambergris is best-known and most highly valued by the perfume industry but is recognized all over the world for its utterly unique properties.
Ambergris is formed by some Some Sperm Whales in their intestines, either because of irritation or to protect against irritation from the sharp objects in the whale's food (mainly squid). If the whale is lucky, it is able to expel the ambergris before it causes a blockage. Once released, the ambergris blob floats in the ocean, baking and brining, before eventually washing up on shore as a chalky-waxy, fragrant chunk that can be more valuable than gold.
The word is French and translates to English as a simply descriptive "grey amber," while the Chinese word for ambergris is lóng xián xiāng, which in ancient Chinese means "dragon spittle fragrance."
Sperm whales live in every ocean of the world. The New England whaling history connection and Moby Dick, The John Singer Sargent painting, Fumée d'Ambre Gris, depicting its use as a ritualistic incense, the gorgeous intricately carved tablets from Turkey that were scraped into wine, tea or ice cream... The ancient Egyptians burned it as incense. The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 banned trading in ambergris as a byproduct of the whaling industry. Despite new research confirming that ambergris is a substance whales expel naturally, and a general lack of enforcement, ambergris is still contraband.
A metaphor for the creative experience: art as a "pearl from a whale" beginning as an irritant or struggle to process what you take in, eventually either killing you or being released as inspiration.
A metaphor for the gallery experience: The required beholder to recognize and cultivate its value.