The Thrill of the New

By staff August 1, 2008

Galleries have been a part of the cultural map of Sarasota since the 1940s, when the beaches, sunshine and growing cultural cachet of what was then a small town had attracted enough artists here that they needed places to show and sell their work. Today Sarasota has a host of galleries, and the scene is constantly changing, with each new gallery that opens offering a particular focus and approach. Some sell mainly to local clients and visitors, while others cater to international customers. We asked the owners of six galleries representing a broad range of interests to talk about their market niche and what’s new and exciting on their walls.

Allyn Gallup, owner of Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art, has been a presence on the Sarasota scene since 1991, when he opened his first gallery on Palm Avenue. He recently moved into his fourth location, this one on Fifth Street between Lemon and Orange avenues in the Rosemary District. 1419 Fifth St., Sarasota (941) 366-2093.

Focus: "To bring quality and serious art to the community at prices [$1,000-$12,000] they can afford."

Introduction to art: "My father collected prints. He was a sales manager for 3M and a dilettante in the most positive sense—his interests included bullfighting, ornithology and literature."

Typical client: "Some are sophisticated and have looked at a lot of art and are guided by their experience, while others have no experience."

What’s changed since I first opened: "My customers are younger and more willing to expand their thinking."

Important sale in the last year: Paintings by Peter Stephens and Leslie Lerner in the $12,000 range.

What’s exciting me right now: "I’m enthusiastic about Carla Poindexter, a painter and filmmaker who graduated from the University of Central Florida. Her work is fanciful and abstract but not dense. There are a lot of small objects in the images that do things."

Tre Michel and David Steiner opened The State of the Arts Gallery on State Street four years ago. David was trained as a painter and graduated from Colorado State University. Trey attended Ringling College as a design major. Before they opened their gallery, they studied the market in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago for three years. 1525 State Street, Sarasota (941) 955-2787.

Focus: "Established contemporary Sarasota artists."

Introduction to art: David: "From fourth grade on it was part of my life. In college I met Rauschenberg, Christo and Trova." Tre: "I grew up with it. My dad collected art in the ‘70s."

Typical client: Tre: "They are not at the New York level. They want to learn. They seek us out. We separate clients as to whether they’re decorating or collecting." David: "Sarasota residents are culturally sophisticated and appreciate original art."

What’s changed: "Clients want to go to artists’ studios, and we encourage a relationship with the artist."

Important recent sale: "A large [8-by-8-foot] assemblage by David Steiner to clients from Great Britain for their home on Longboat Key sold in the $12,000 to $16,000 range."

What’s exciting us right now: "The works in three shows coming up next year: Impressionist landscapes and still-lifes, found objects we are calling Eco-Chic, and graphite and graffiti."

Robert Preiss opened R & R Bond Gallery on St. Armands Circle almost two years ago. He began collecting art in 1993 and opened his first gallery in Tampa in 1995. Although his gallery is located here, most of his clients come from outside Sarasota.

In 1989, Kate O’Connell purchased the Hodgell Gallery from Joan Hodgell, who had been a fixture on South Palm Avenue since 1976. Kate’s husband, Brian, joined the gallery after leaving a career in banking in 1993. They are the only gallery in town that specializes in fine art glass. 46 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota (941) 366-1146.

Focus: "Primarily fine art glass, sculpture and mixed media for the wall. We combine the educational and social for our clients by bringing in artists to lecture and give demonstrations."

Introduction to art: Kate was a professional artist and had a bronze foundry. Brian went to Northwestern University and studied at the Prado after college. "My interest then was mostly theater and architecture."

Typical client: "Our typical client lives downtown or on Longboat Key in a condo with lots of windows and not many walls. They are glass collectors. Three years ago there were 43 collectors and now there are 144."

What’s exciting us: "Work by 12 Canadian glass artists this year and work by the Australian artist Simon Maberley."

Recent sales: "2007 was our best year ever. We recently sold over $160,000 worth of art to one client. We also just sold eight optical glass works by Christopher Ries in the $10,000 to $130,000 price range."

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