In 1990 Saba Alene pioneered Ethiopia’s art scene with the launch of the St. George Interior Decoration and Art Gallery in Addis Ababa. At the time the Ethiopian art market was almost non-existent. There were only 2-3 full time working artists, with most all artists working in a primary occupation as an art school teacher or for a government enterprise. Newspaper columns dedicated to art were nonexistent. Most Ethiopian homes displayed a family picture portrait, and a copy of The Last Supper. Neighbors and friends alike shook their heads when they learned of Saba’s plan to open a gallery to sell art.
Ethiopian art had not been exposed and Saba encouraged the local artists to exhibit and show their work at the Gallery. She introduced the concept of “collecting art” to visitors and the Ethiopian art scene was born. Artists became well recognized by local and international visitors; young artists began to flourish; newspaper columns dedicated space to talk art; and art galleries opened throughout Addis Ababa. Saba Alene was a game-changer in the Ethiopian art scene. The business expanded with a second location established in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, the St. George Gallery that just celebrated its’ fifth anniversary.
Saba Alene, founder and owner of St. George Gallery, began her journey working in the family furniture business in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. At that time to see a woman in this industry, it was very rare. Saba created quite a stir when she became a leader of the manufacturing side of the business. It was here Saba began learning the techniques of woodworking and sketching her designs. In 1990 she opened her business, St. George Interior Decoration and Art Gallery in Addis Ababa.
Selamawit Alene, Saba’s sister, has a background in floral design and interior decoration. In 2000, Selamawit brought her talent and experience with design features and aesthetics to her sister’s Gallery, and since then has become a co-owner of the business.
St. George Gallery gives back to Ethiopia by building accessible irrigation and building financial sustainability to its artisans.