Guide to Richmond, VA | Great Contemporary Art Galleries

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts | © Jeffrey Isaac Greenberg 2+ / Alamy Stock Photo
Helen Armitage

Historic Richmond, Virginia has a vibrant and growing contemporary arts community that brings internationally renowned artists to Richmond while promoting local, Virginian talent. From the privately owned Virginia Museum of Fine Arts dating back to 1936, to artist-run galleries and Richmond First Fridays, the city is establishing itself as a worthy arts destination. These are ten of the best contemporary art galleries and museums in Richmond, and an extra university-based art space to complement any cultural tour of the city.

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1708 Gallery

1708 Gallery was founded in 1978 by a group of trailblazing young creatives studying at the Virginia Commonwealth University, which included-renowned Richmond-based sculptural artist Tom Chenoweth who was awarded a Pollak Prize for Excellence in the Arts by Richmond Magazine, and the late painter Gerald Donato. The gallery, whose name is a homage to its original premises, a renovated flood-damaged warehouse on 1708 East Main Street, was established as a non-profit space in which to exhibit innovative and gutsy contemporary artworks by established and up-and-coming artists. Each year since 2008, the gallery has organised InLight Richmond, a public exhibition of light-based art and performances that takes place in the streets and spaces of downtown Richmond. In the past the gallery has exhibited the likes of Danish installation artist Søren Hüttel.

Virginia Museum of Fine Art

A longstanding fixture in Richmond’s arts community, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was established in 1936 with the aim of collecting, exhibiting and promoting art to a wide public audience. The English Renaissance-style building, which was designed by architects Peebles and Ferguson from the neighbouring city of Norfolk, has gradually been added to the museum over the years, with the west wing being added in 1985. The museum owns an extensive collection that features ancient American art, art deco and early 20th century European art sections, as well as a contemporary collection that includes sculptor Robert Lazzarini’s creations and Sally Mann’s haunting black and white photography. The museum’s past exhibitions have included an award-winning touring exhibition of works by American pop art great Tom Wesselman and works by New York-based Syrian-American sculptural artist Diana Al-Hadid.

Art Works

Just a few minutes’ walk from downtown Richmond resides Art Works, a spacious and contemporary arts centre that features five different gallery spaces and several studios. Opened in 2003 by co-owners and artists Paula Demmert and Glenda Kotchish, Art Works exhibits new works on a monthly basis, was established to provide support for artists based in Richmond and the surrounding area. The gallery currently has a number of resident artists including Chester, Virginia-based Steven Lloyd whose abstract metal art uses transparent urethane paint on metal to give a hologramic effect to his unique pieces, and biomechanical sculptor James Ross who uses antique medical equipment, vintage jewellery and machine parts to make his steampunk-like creations.

Visual Arts Centre of Richmond

The Visual Arts Centre of Richmond is a gallery that also provides the largest non-university community arts programme in the state of Virginia. The centre was originally established in 1963 as the ‘Hand Workshop’ by local socialite Elisabeth Scott Bocock, and has occupied several premises before settling in its current historic home – the 30,000-square-foot, newly renovated Virginia Dairy Building. The Visual Arts Centre holds six exhibitions a year by established and new artists, with an emphasis on creative and progressive use of materials and processes, and has recently exhibited works by two Virginia-based artists – Aggie Zed’s Keeper’s Keep, a series of sculptures, installations, paintings and drawings, and painter Megan Marlatt’s Substitutions for a Game Never Played, featuring her signature pop culture references.

ADA Gallery

Located in the heart of arty downtown Richmond, ADA Gallery was established in 2003 and aims to work with the very best emerging and mid-career artists in contemporary art from across the USA, but with an emphasis on artists based in the Mid-Atlantic States. ADA Gallery’s recent exhibitions have included XOXO, a series of acrylic paintings by American Berlin-based artist Kottie Palmoa whose work is a dark take on pop culture and urban life, and Geometron, a series of intricately crafted geometric sculptures by Brooklyn artist and graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, Sarah Bednarak. The gallery works hard to promote its artists to as wide an audience as possible and in 2010 launched a sister gallery, Mulherin & Pollard, in New York City with partner Katherine Mulherin Contemporary Arts Projects from Toronto.

Reynolds Gallery

Reynolds Gallery is the namesake of its owner and director Beverly Reynolds who for the past 30 years has strived to promote the contemporary arts scene in Richmond by exhibiting exciting and creative new works by local, national and international contemporary artists. The gallery, which runs an average of 15 new exhibitions each year, features 4,400 square feet of exhibition space and has shown works by American contemporary greats such as Jasper Johns and Ellsworth Kelly. Recently, the Reynolds Gallery acquired a number of new works that include pieces by American painter Donald Baechler, whose work draws elements from folk, outsider and pop art, and Norwegian artist Anne-Karin Furunes, who creates large-scale portraits from historical photographs by first painting and then perforating canvasses.

Artspace Gallery

Artspace, a non-profit gallery, started life in 1988 as an artist-run collective aiming to reach out to a wide audience. Artspace, which is located within the Plant Zone Art Center in Richmond’s historic Manchester District, has maintained a gallery since then that showcases innovative, cutting-edge visual contemporary art alongside performance art including drama, dance, poetry and music. The gallery has in recent years exhibited the works of artists including North Carolina-based printmaker Scott Ludwig, who employs a variety of media including photography and drawing in his prints, and Korean-born ceramic artist Sukjin Choi. The Artspace artist collective currently includes local painters Kathleen Westkaemper and Dana Frostick, and every other year the gallery hosts ThinkSmall, an international exhibition featuring works from over 200 artists.

Page Bond Gallery

Established in 1999, the Page Bond Gallery exhibits a wide variety of contemporary art including but not limited to the mediums of painting, photography, sculpture and ceramics with the aim of increasing knowledge and appreciation of regional, national and international contemporary artists. The gallery, which resides in a beautiful building dating back to the 1940s, features 3,600 square feet of exhibition space spread over four galleries and was designed by local firm 3 North Architects. Page Bond has not only exhibited works by contemporary icons like Lucian Freud and Ryan McGinnis, but has also been instrumental in promoting home-grown talent like Virginia-based artists Holly Morrisson and William Wylie. Among its other exhibited artists are Elizabeth Akamatsu, whose sculptures of wood, bronze and wax fuse together disparate objects, and photographer Elijah Gowin.

Gallery 5

Located in Richmond’s Jackson Ward district, Gallery 5 opened in 2005 with a twofold mission – to establish a space where cutting-edge, progressive visual and performing artists at all stages in their careers showcase their work, and at the same time save the life of one of Richmond’s historic buildings – Steamer Company No. 5, the gallery’s home which was built in 1849 and is the city’s oldest police station and Virginia’s oldest firehouse. Gallery 5 holds new exhibitions each month in conjunction with Richmond’s First Friday Art Walks and in 2012, the gallery was named ‘Best Independent Arts Gallery’ by local magazines Style Weekly in its Best of Richmond awards. Among others, the gallery has exhibited works by realist figurative painter Sean Mahan and paper sculptor Matthew Shlian.

Ghostprint Gallery

Ghostprint Gallery was opened in 1999 with the aim of redefining interpretations of ‘fine art’ by showcasing art from undiscovered contemporary talents and internationally renowned artists working across a range of traditional and non-traditional mediums. The gallery, which is cooperatively owned by art dealer Geraldine Duskin and her daughter Dorothea, a mixed media artist and tattooist, gets its name from the printmaking process of producing a faint impression of an original print. Ghostprint Gallery recently exhibited a series of dreamlike paintings by Brooklyn-based French-Tahitian artist Tifenn Python and currently represents artists such as Benjamin Sack and his captivatingly detailed paper and ink creations, and Juan Perdiguero, who incorporates animals into his work.

Anderson Gallery

Sanford Biggers, Codex, Installation View, VCUarts Anderson Gallery

The Anderson Gallery at the VCU’s School of Art is a non-profit art space benefitting from a long history and rich, progressive tradition. Although the art space was originally founded in 1930, the gallery as we now know it has been exhibiting and evolving for the last 35 years, with a passion that’s visible in every show. From regular exhibits put on by the VCU’s students to ambitious projects by established American and international creatives, Anderson Gallery stands at the forefront of Richmond’s contemporary arts with its thought-provoking approach to artistic creation. Recent shows by the likes of interdisciplinary artists Pipilotti Rist and Sanford Biggers have delighted the gallery’s public and once again proven its unquestionable authority on the USA’s campus gallery scene.

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