WICKER PARK — A prolific restaurateur has moved on to his next chapter — fine art dealer.
"I decided not to run restaurants and do something more civilized," Jerry Suqi said.
Century Guild opened Friday at 2136 W. North Ave. in Wicker Park, in a storefront space just west of the Milwaukee-Damen-North intersection.
The gallery, which specializes in turn-of-the-century contemporary art and antiques ranging from $100 to $50,000, is the Chicago outpost of a gallery of the same name that opened in December in Los Angeles' Culver City Arts District.
Over a 25-year career, Suqi, who was raised in Chicago and studied literature at DePaul University, has opened and closed popular restaurants and nightclubs such as Downtown dessert bar Sugar, Narcisse and La Pomme Rogue, among others.
While he's dealt fine art out of a private residence in West Town since 1999, Suqi decided to test the waters for a public gallery with a two month pop-up gallery in Logan Square that closed in February.
Suqi said he and business partner Tom Negovan, who operates the West Coast gallery, chose to open a permanent location in Wicker Park because "It still had a lot of interesting shops and small businesses, and there's a strong arts community."
The gallery's first exhibit, "Modern Liquidity," features oil paintings by David Abed, a Symbolist painter based in Chicago.
In Abed's haunting yet intriguing pieces, bluish-white naked women appear to float in various positions.
Suqi said the paintings, which are set in or beneath water, speak to the fact that "Our identities are not cemented."
"We value the individual to the extreme. People are trading in spouses, homes. We are tourists in our own lives," Suqi said.
In addition to Abed's work — three pieces were sold in the gallery's opening weekend, Suqi said — the Century Guild features works by Gail Potocki, a former Chicago resident who recently moved back to her home state of Michigan.
The gallery also houses a collection of antique colloypes (mechanical printmaking that predates lithographs) by Gustav Klimt from a 1908-1914 collection called "Das Work," which was the Austrian artists' painstaking attempt to catalog all of his work.
Suqi would not divulge how he acquired the rare portfolio by the artist perhaps best known for his painting, "The Kiss," but said the Guild Gallery has "more Klimt than the Art Institute."
In addition to Klimt, Century Guild showcases a small selection of sketches by figurative painter Egon Schiele, a protege of Klimt.
Abed's show will hang for about six weeks, when it will be replaced by original illustrations from David Mack, a comic book illustrator.
Century Guild Chicago hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday through Thursday; noon-8 p.m. Saturday, and noon-6 p.m. Sunday. Phone: 312-617-8711.