Walking through Charleston often feels like strolling through an open-air museum. Certainly, there’s a deep sense of history, but the city also has a strong artistic pedigree. with more than 40 galleries representing local, regional and national artists — many within walking distance of each other — you are sure to find a piece for your collection.
If art is what you seek, plan your visit to take place during one of the Charleston Gallery Association’s (CGA) official Art Walks. The walks take place in the early evening four times a year — on the first Friday of March, May, October and December — and all CGA galleries participate, opening their doors to the public and serving light bites, wine and other refreshments. The galleries will often plan special events or host featured artists during these eventings. For more information visit CharlestonGalleryAssociation.com, where you can stay up-to-date on upcoming events and also download a map of all the CGA art galleries (see page 70) to customize your own “art walk.” There are many ways to tackle the compact art district, but if it’s your first time in Charleston — or your first time hitting the gallery circuit here — then we have a few suggestions to offer.
A Royal Entrance
Start in the heart of the bustling historic art district at the corner of Queen and Meeting Streets. The galleries in this area include Atrium Art Gallery, Meyer Vogl Gallery, Corrigan Gallery and Principle Gallery. These represent a fine selection of various artistic styles, ranging from contemporary abstract to realism, and they are also near the newly renovated Gibbes Museum of Art.
Right at the corner of Queen and Meeting Streets, the Meyer Vogl Gallery features contemporary oil paintings by its owners, Laurie Meyer and Marissa Vogl, as well as other local artists. It also exhibits work by nationally recognized guest artists, such as Quang Ho and Anne Blair Brown. “By exhibiting artwork for which we feel an emotional connection, we hope to engage the senses of art lovers and introduce collectors to exhilarating new works,” says gallery director Katie Geer.
Diagonally across Meeting Street, Principle Gallery Charleston treats visitors and collectors to museum-quality work created by well-established American and international artists specializing in contemporary and classical realism. The inviting, light-filled space is a great place to experience exciting work by a multi-faceted and diverse roster of artists.
Heading back onto Queen Street, Corrigan Gallery was one of the first contemporary art galleries in the city to exclusively represent local artists. It is owned by artist Lese Corrigan and has both representational and abstract works of art on exhibit, treating visitors to all the characteristic Charleston charm but with a contemporary edge.
Long Live King
Another cluster of art galleries are just a block away on lower King Street. The Audubon Gallery is home to a stunning array of limited-edition fine art prints and paintings from the golden age of natural history. It also carries bird carvings and antique decoys, as well as a collection of 20th century sporting and Southern art — both antique and contemporary.
A couple of blocks away, on Broad Street and then also on East Bay Street, there are two other concentrations of galleries worth visiting. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the individual gems scattered throughout the area, too!
Though Charleston’s historic district lays claim to the lion’s share of artistic offerings, it is by no means the only place to go. Beyond the Holy City, you can find Wells Gallery tucked within The Sanctuary Hotel at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. The innovative gallery showcases contemporary work focused primarily on the Lowcountry and Southern experience, and it houses a collection of oil paintings and watercolors, as well as artisan jewelry designed and crafted by some of the country’s most celebrated artists. Exhibitions and workshops by the gallery’s roster of more than 20 artists are held there on a regular basis, too.