Charleston is a global art destination with stunning galleries located within walking distance from one another.
According to Julie Dunn, President of the Charleston Gallery Association (CGA), Charleston’s galleries offer enough variety to excite any art collector. “Visitors from all over the country and around the world come here not only to learn about the history of the city [and] taste the great food of Charleston, but to also acquire a piece of art for their home.”
Members of the CGA collaborate on art events throughout the year, including the four official ArtWalks. On the first Friday of March, May, October and December, from 5–8 p.m., art enthusiasts stroll the downtown area to find all galleries open and serving refreshments and to meet many of the artists. “If you are not in town during the official ArtWalks, then print a map from the website or pick up one in each of the galleries and take your own ArtWalk anytime during the year,” says Dunn.
The art galleries offer a variety of work from abstract and contemporary to traditional landscapes of the Lowcountry and everything in between. Dunn is also a global black-and-white fine art photographer and director at Atrium Art Gallery located at 61 Queen Street, where they represent her work, as well as abstract and contemporary work from local, regional and national artist.
Across the way at 62 Queen Street, is Corrigan Gallery, owned by artist Lese Corrigan. This was one of the first contemporary art spaces in Charleston dedicated to representing only local artists. The gallery exhibits works of art both representational and abstract, reflecting the charm of old Charleston with a distinctly contemporary edge. Also on Queen Street is CGA member Anglin Smith Fine Art. Located at 9 Queen Street, it features works from Lowcountry painter Betty Anglin Smith and her triplets — painters Jennifer Smith Rogers and Shannon Smith Hughes and photographer Tripp Smith. Their art is known for its contemporary realism and color. The subject matter ranges from local and European landscapes to architectural works and figurative and abstract still life.
Charleston’s only fine art museum, the recently renovated Gibbes Museum of Art, is also in the neighborhood. Established in 1858, the Gibbes houses over 10,000 historic and contemporary American works, including paintings, print, drawings, photography, sculptures and miniatures.
A block away, on Lower King Street, a string of CGA galleries line the road. Beautiful works focusing on 20th- and 21st-century representational art can be found at The Sylvan Gallery, and, right upstairs, Horton Hayes Fine Art displays the kinds of traditional pieces art lovers seek. The gallery primarily houses landscape, still life and figurative pieces. The Audubon Gallery at 190 King Street features quintessential Audubon fare, such as illustrations of plants, flowers and animals.
Cecil Byrne Gallery, which will be moving to 60 Broad Street at the end of 2016, features leading impressionist artists, as well as artisan-made pottery and furnishings. Owned by artist Cecilia Murray, she named her gallery after her grandfather, who was as an artist too.
If you are looking for vintage European posters, the Julia Santen Gallery at 188 King Street carries original, vintage poster art dating from 1890 to the 1960s. Diagonally across the street is Reinert Fine Art and Sculpture Garden at 179 King Street. The gallery showcases contemporary impressionist works in oil by Rick Reinert and 25 other oil painters. It is also home to a bronze sculpture garden.
Nearby, on Kiawah Island, Wells Gallery is the premiere art space at The Sanctuary Resort within the Kiawah Island Golf Resort. It is dedicated to showcasing contemporary art works focused on the Lowcountry and Southern experiences. This innovative gallery has a collection of original oil paintings, watercolors and artisan jewelry produced by some of the nation’s most respected artists. A tour through the arts scene is not complete without visiting the antique shops. Dozens of elegant shops specialize in English, European and American period antiques, including furnishings, decorative and fine art, architectural elements, garden pieces, vintage jewelry and silver — typically from the late 17th to 20th centuries.
Located at 125 King Street, David Skinner Antiques & Period Lighting carries top-quality pieces, from the traditional to the modern. “People are looking for one-of-a-kind pieces,“ says David Skinner, who grew up in the antiques business and works closely with designers. While the shop sells many traditional pieces, exotic Caribbean antiques are currently popular, which according to Skinner is in keeping with Charleston’s “hip vibe.”