South Carolina’s Charleston may be the oldest city of the state, but its art scene is a surprisingly vibrant and forward-looking one, with a good number of art projects and events fixed on the cultural calendar. Moreover, many South Carolinian artists are represented by the city’s independent and public art spaces, allowing them to flourish at home. Here is our selection of ten of the best contemporary art galleries in Charleston.
Principle Gallery is an art space which caters for its visitors; adapting activities to their liking as opposed to dictating what tastes they should adopt. Previous events have included painting visitors with their favorite objects; exhibiting ‘dapper’ paintings in line with Fashion Week; and, for the month of March in 2014, the exhibition theme was The Last Time I Saw Paris. Principle Gallery has even hosted the opening runway show of the Charleston Fashion Week; the finely dressed models skimmed along the works on display, thus highlighting the gallery’s harmonious curation and the accessibility .
The Atelier Gallery, striving to provide something to everybody’s liking, is fresh, new and exciting; merging traditional and contemporary. There certainly is a broad range of artists and media featured, which ensures that every visit can be embellished by a new discovery. Recently featured artist Susan Easton Burns was chosen as the official artist for the Kentucky Derby, bringing the painted canvas into a more contemporary field of relevance for many who might otherwise ignore the existence of gallery work in South Carolina.
This well-designed and meticulously curated gallery is representative of the true deep American South. The driving philosophy at Rebekah Jacob Gallery is to source established and widely exhibited artists in exhibitions that travel across mediums whilst also staying true to their Southern roots. Photography and canvas works are exhibited featuring civil rights documentary footage and photography, as well as installations with trompe-l’œil effects and an outdoor presence. Past exhibitions have also taken Cuban and Latin Caribbean influences into account. The bulk of the associated artists are photographers, such as William Eggleston, but contemporary painters also display their wares on the walls, including Kevin Taylor, with his eerie depictions of personified animals.
This recent initiative takes artwork out of the sheltered walls of an indoor gallery and the potentially creativity-stifling enclave of traditional curation. chART brings artwork, and unknown artists, into the open. Geoff Richardson, the project’s founder, became jaded with traditional galleries which opened and subsequently closed in the city, and took it upon himself to challenge Charleston to a fight; a fight to cover the walls in art, hope, and highly visible visual stimulation from the paintbrushes of local people.
The exposed brickwork, and preference for lesser known but noteworthy artists and expansive exhibitions, have made Robert Lange Studios an award-winning gallery in the center of Charleston. The featured artists all have one important trait in common: they are the epitome of contemporary. With a modern and vibrantly pulsating feel, the works presented bring a liveliness to the walls of the gallery. Robert Lange’s, gallery owner and artist, style could translate well to any gallery or living room.
Focusing exclusively on the artwork of Laura DiNello, this gallery space is defined by her colorful, accessible and feminine style. The walls are decorated with mosaic-style canvases, drawings, and accompanied by a variety of mannequins and surprising accessories. DiNello’s works are featured in many East Coast hotels, restaurants and private establishments, and can also be found as far away as Europe.
The George Gallery, a highly modern gallery, features a select few artists with a resolutely creative and Southern perspective. Representing some of the most forward-thinking South Carolina artists of the moment, the space is dedicated to displaying their work with valor. Among the works on show are the haunting, yet dynamic mixed medium works by Charleston-based Tim Husey, and Paul Yanko’s beautiful, geometrical paintings that resemble kaleidoscopes rather than canvases.
As well as a 3,600-square-foot ceramics gallery open to the public throughout the week, Cone 10 Studios offers classes and workshops in the various art forms which are on show and produced on-site. The porcelain and stoneware comes in traditional, functional forms which can be bought for your home or kitchen, and also in more conceptual, abstract forms which are both thought-provoking and aesthetically pleasing. Weekly classes are held in wheel-throwing, hand-building and teapot-making, in addition to a dedicated children’s program. Cone 10 also holds charity evenings in the context of international benefit project Empty Bowls.
Courtyard Gallery showcases a number of South Carolinian creatives. Its roster includes Judy Jacobs, with her chunky jewelry design, and Mark Larkin, with primarily twisted, painted and distressed steel, which remains eye-catching and beautiful. The gallery participates in the French quarter Art Walks on the first Friday of March, May, October and December, to discover the Gallic side of Charleston. During this community event, all the galleries of the French quarter open their doors to the public for wine, food and art.
Painting by Lynne Riding | Courtesy of Corrigan Gallery
The Corrigan Gallery has an expanding repertoire of local and national artists, representing a unique, contemporary approach to art in Southern USA. Another participating gallery in the French quarter art walks, Corrigan Gallery focuses on artists of museum calibre, either working in Charleston or connected to the city. They have recently expanded their repertoire to include second market works by earlier artists.