Portland Museum of Art is hands-down the best art museum in Maine. But what about the state’s small private galleries? Maine’s coastline has drawn artists for centuries, and the state’s galleries are packed with a who’s-who of painters, sculptors and everything in between. Here’s our list of some of the best.
Mast Cove Galleries
One of Maine’s largest privately-owned galleries, Mast Cove began 38 years ago with just 12 artists. The southern sea port gallery has more than 70 works today, drawing casual onlookers and serious buyers alike to the restored barn and surrounding sculpture garden. The gallery also hosts jazz and blues concerts throughout the year.
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ICON Contemporary Art
Maine’s only gallery to focus exclusively on contemporary abstract art, ICON features the work of Maine artists as well as the galleries founder, Duane Paluska. The Illinois-born Paluska also has a woodworking studio on-site, and runs a radio show where he interviews artists featured at the gallery.
For more than three decades this downtown Boothbay gallery has specialized in 19th and 20th century Maine prints, mostly from the state’s midcoast artists. In addition to holding important works regularly loaned out to the Portland Museum of Art and Farnsworth Museum for exhibitions, the gallery also features modern Maine realist painters like Janice Anthony and Tom Curry.
For more than 30 years this midcoast gallery has been putting a spotlight on a small, well-curated selection of Maine artists. Located across the street from the Farnsworth Museum (famous for its paintings and drawings by the Wyeth family) the museum is a big name even in the New York art world and often features artists who explore nature, and man’s relationship to the natural world. Although most of the artwork is paintings, the gallery also features some sculptures and photography.
Elena Kubler openedthis Deer Isle gallery in 1982 and eventually moved it to hallowed ground: the former sites for works from the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and the Deer Isle Art Association. Today, the gallery continues the tradition by featuring the works of world-renowned painters, sculptors and artists, many of whom lived or featured Maine extensively in their work.
Part studio, part gallery, part auditorium – SPACE brings in contemporary visual and performing artists under its roof in downtown Portland. The gallery is notable for being unpredictable, whether hosting an author talk on a new book or showing a documentary on rats. The gallery also supports artists with funding.
This new gallery set in a brightly-lit period brick building in the heart of Portland showcases contemporary artists from around Maine. Launched in 2014 on the (correct) premise that some of the greatest arts hail or were inspired by the state, the gallery is one of three outposts for an art collector who charges artists a monthly fee for exposure. The different way of doing business has alienated some, but the gallery hosts some rare, hard-to-find contemporary print, painting and sculpture artists unseen elsewhere.
Located in the heart of the Old Port, Portland’s longest standing gallery, was founded in 1977 by owner Peggy Greenhut Golden, a New York native who also curates the biannual Portland Show. With a reputation four decades in the making, Greenhut is routinely voted Portland’s (read: Maine’s) best gallery and is a large reason why the city’s art community has its stellar reputation. With more than 40 contemporary painters and sculptors, the gallery features the who’s-who in Maine art.
This art space for contemporary Maine photographers, painters and artists was recently launched by a Greenhut Gallery employee to give Maine artists more visibility. Located on street level, the gallery describes itself as a space for passerbys and art-enthusiasts alike. Open only on the first Friday of each month or by appointment, the gallery draws from Maine’s up-and-coming artists.