By JOHN T. WARD
Pete Theodoropoulus is still not an artist, though one might say his skills as a businessman are quickly approaching artistry.
As detailed by redbankgreen last summer, he’s a food guy, one who owns multiple Italian-ice stands and restaurants around New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. And he’s not yet 30 years old.
But Theodoropoulus believes he’s found a huge opening in the art world: a market for large images assembled from thousands of bits of cut and broken stone and glass. Art that weighs heavy on the walls and heavy on the wallet.
He’s seizing control of it. And his venture, in development for nearly two years, officially got a face this week with the opening of his gallery, called Tesserae – Greek for ‘mosaic’ – in a storefront on Broad Street in Red Bank.
The gallery opened Wednesday in the the 2,000-square-foot storefront that served as home to Ballew Jewelers and its predecessor, Reussilles’ Jewelers, for 99 years. Theodoropoulus stripped the space bare, exposing two long brick walls on which his artwork hangs. Soft lighting over an open floor dotted with settees creates the feeling of a skylight overhead.
In addition to commissioning Newark stone artist Rick Velser to bring popular images of skylines and nudes to life in rock, Theodoropoulus says he can execute any photo a client wants, as well.
Not that he’s completely mercenary about it, to be sure. The mosaics Theodoropoulus has Velser make are visually engaging. But ask him if he has any competition, and he cites an operation in New York that will transform your personal photos into tiles for $1,000 a square foot.
“I’m half that,” he says with a laugh.
Tesserae is at 36 Broad Street. Prices range from $2,500 to $25,000.