Nashville may have a long way to go before garnering international acclaim as an American art destination, but new and exciting cultural phenomena are stirring in Tennessee’s capital. Many small galleries are making a common effort to promote the arts by participating in collective exhibitions and events specifically aimed at engaging the public. These are the best contemporary art galleries in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Frist Center is one of the most important destinations for contemporary art in Nashville. Housed in a beautiful Art Deco building, the venue offers a new show every six to eight weeks, busying itself with displaying the works of local as well as international artists working across many media (renowned artist Vik Muniz, for example, exhibited his still life art of garbage materials). At the Martin ArtQuest gallery inside the Frist Center, the visitor becomes the artist – 30 stations are available for onlookers to create paintings, sketches and collages – a learn-by-doing approach that will enrich anyone’s knowledge of artistic practices.
Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art
A former family mansion belonging to the Cheeks, who had built their wealth from marketing an especially favored blend of coffee, the Cheekwood Museum of Art’s permanent collection comprises exquisite examples of American and British decorative arts, as well as contemporary artworks by the likes of Andy Warhol and Larry Rivers. Unique to the museum is the 100-acre woodland surrounding the mansion; paths that run across the woods are dotted with sculptures by international contemporary artists, which together form a collection named the Carell Woodland Sculpture Trail. Nine beautiful botanical gardens are also part of the estate, each one characterized by its own arrangement and selection of plants and flowers. The blend of art and nature is a highly distinctive feature of Cheekwood, and makes it a must-visit destination in Nashville.
Primarily a commercial gallery helping artists market their works to collectors and public venues, Tinney Contemporary also has an exhibition space and presents several shows throughout the year. The gallery prides itself on its unique selection of avant-garde contemporary artists that it brings to the public’s attention. Although it is open to all art forms, it often focuses on painters and artists working with mixed media. Among the gems of Tinney Contemporary’s portfolio are the paintings, prints and drawings of Peri Schwartz, a faithful student of color, light and shapes; the works of Bruce Munro, a British artist who chose light as his primary medium and creates striking light-based installations; and Eric Zener, an exponent of contemporary realism in painting.
Zeitgeist Gallery debuted on Nashville’s art scene in 1994, and over the years has built a reputation as a space where both established and up-and-coming artists are welcome to explore their creative energy. The gallery also serves as the halfway point between the artists it represents and the collectors who will circulate their work. Represented artists include painters, sculptors and photographers. On the side of its visual arts program of exhibitions, Zeitgeist gallery is home to Indeterminacies – a series of events where unusual and innovative local musicians present live performances. Writers, philosophers and critics are also invited to spark a cross-disciplinary and unpredictable dialogue that is sure to offer inspiration at every note.
Located in a two-floor, red-brick building in the heart of Green Hills, the Bennett Galleries is a family-run exhibition space and business showcasing works – mostly paintings and sculptures – by both national and international artists. Bennett Galleries displays a somewhat modest yet still interesting selection of works, and deserves the attention of those looking to enrich their art collection. Worthy of note are James Garrett’s paintings of woods, made with polished Venetian plaster on board; the abstract compositions of Kris Prunitsch; and the elongated figures in Leszek Sokol’s paintings.
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