ASTORIA — It wasn't necessarily his entrepreneurial spirit that inspired Bart Tarulli to open 7 Continents Art. It was rather, at least in part, a lack of storage space.
Over the last 30 years, the Bayside financial adviser amassed such a vast collection of arts and antiques from dozens of countries across the globe, that he was running out of room to store them.
"Dishwasher, oven, closets, my sister's basement, two storage areas, my mother's — it goes on and on and on," said Tarulli, 61, who opened the gallery this past weekend.
"I had a dream my mother was saying to me, 'Bart, either get married or sell some of your belongings,'" Tarulli laughed. He opted to sell.
The result is 7 Continents Art, tucked away on the fourth floor of the Quinn Building at 35-20 Broadway in Astoria.
The space is filled with an eclectic mix of pieces that Tarulli spent decades collecting: paintings from South Africa's Ndebele tribe; a door from a bank vault made in 1910; a bird cage from the 1930s modeled to look like a French chateau; a 140-year old bust of Cleopatra that he brought home from one of his 46 trips to England.
What's for sale in the showroom barely scratches the surface of his beloved collection, Tarulli said.
"This is about 2 percent of what I own," he said. "I had trouble parting with them all."
Tarulli, who grew up in Astoria, was bit by the collecting bug in the mid-1980s, when he was walking down Sixth Avenue in Manhattan and stumbled on an autograph auction. He came out the owner of letters signed by Abraham Lincoln and Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
“Once I had that in my hand, I was transfixed," he said.
Tarulli began collecting historical manuscripts before turning his attention to other collectibles, scouring auctions and working with dealers across the globe. An avid traveler, he's visited every continent and 54 different countries, many of them several times. It become his goal to get unique things everywhere he went, from India to China to Scandinavia.
"I wanted to get something important from each country," he said.
He said he's fascinated by historical treasures, pieces that tell a story about the time and place they came from. Among the items for sale at 7 Continents is a handmade Ouija board, made in 1933, and clock from France circa 1890.
"When the impressionists were talking, this would have been in the café,” Tarulli said. "All these kinds of interesting things can’t be reproduced. They’re a part of history.”
Pieces are priced from a few hundred dollars to $4,000. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and on weekdays by appointment.
Tarulli said he's eager to focus on his new business, as he stopped traveling lately. After three years on the go and visits to almost every major city and cultural landmark, he said he's seen all he ever wanted to see.
"I want to travel from Bayside to Astoria, Astoria to Bayside," he joked. "I don’t want to be on a plane anymore, I don’t want jet lag. I'm getting grouchy."