Charleston and the Art Auction

 Robert Lange Gallery

Robert Lange Gallery

Viewing the exhibit "Women Painting Women"

Last weekend my wife and I enjoyed our first trip to Charleston, South Carolina where we made it our goal to visit as many art galleries as we could and enjoy the historical city. I don't have to tell those who have been to Charleston, but for those who haven't, this is a city you need to visit.

Charleston has become an internationally known art city with over 40 galleries surrounded by a community that is proud to preserve its history and the buildings that represent it. Every street in the old district is lined with beautifully restored homes of the 18th and 19th century. Many have been converted to bed & breakfast inns and many others into fantastic looking galleries. There is just something fascinating about seeing so many great original works of art in such picturesque surroundings that one weekend was not nearly enough time.

Of course, there is a busy shopping district with stores representing the top retail brands. You could spend a lot of money and time shopping for the things you can most often buy back home, but we were there to look at art.

We also found the hosts in Charleston to be exemplary of southern hospitality. The artists and gallery owners were very friendly and welcoming.

We also found the hosts in Charleston to be exemplary of southern hospitality. The artists and gallery owners were very friendly and welcoming. On Sunday, our last day there, we intentionally returned to one of those galleries, the Robert Lange Studios, to look again at the exhibit, "Women Painting Women" that is on display (and will continue through the month). Robert and his wife Megan are owners of the gallery and organized the exhibit featuring paintings from 50 female artists who submitted pieces from around the world. The image above was taken in the studio as I was standing in front of the painting "Universal Mother of Compassion" by Adrienne Stein. I would strongly recommend that you visit the exhibit if you are in the area. You can preview it on Robert's web site.

On Saturday night, we also attended the annual Charleston Art Auction presented by the Charleston Fine Art Dealers Association (CFADA) and sponsored in part by American Art Collector magazine which raised money to benefit the Charleston County High Schools' fine art programs. There were over 150 paintings for sale including some incredible pieces by such artists as Scott Burdick, Sue Lyon, Ken Auster, Dan Gerhartz, Dan and Danny McCaw, and Stephen Scott Young. The top bid for the night went to a piece by Jonathan Green ($50K) which seems encouraging considering the concern by many about the state of the economy and the sale of art.

My favorite pieces were not up for auction but were available for sale by watercolor artist Stephen Scott Young. This is the first time I have seen an original of Mr. Young's works and I was filled with appreciation for his talent. His four pieces started at $75K each.

As we moved quickly from gallery to gallery, we were encouraged again to return to one in particular on Sunday, the Martin Gallery on Broad Street. Besides the unique surroundings of marble and high windows characteristic of an old bank, the gallery offered some of the best art in Charleston. In particular we returned to see the sculptures by artist Mitch Billis.

Mitch's sculptures are at once both whimsical and exciting and leave you staring at every inch of the fine detail and amusing touches he adds to the subjects. Mitch comes from a family of artists, and after starting his own foundry in Bozeman, Montana, he decided to become a full-time sculptor. He describes in his work, that he is "continually reaching out to his children as touchstones to bring out the child in him." I certainly see that influence in the pieces on display in the gallery.

We were again impressed with the friendliness of the artists in the city. Robert and his wife Megan Lange, Shannon Smith of Smith Killian Fine Art gallery, Bob Graham, and Mickey Williams are just a few of the ones that stood out and we are appreciative of their hospitality. We hope to be back in Charleston soon.