Halifax’s small commercial galleries showcase a huge variety of local art
I spent a recent afternoon popping in to several galleries in Halifax, looking at the various group shows on view. In just over two hours I looked at works by over one hundred artists, mostly local, reflecting numerous genres and approaches to art. With prices ranging from under $100 to the low five figures, the range was such that every possible budget could be accommodated, as could the seriousness of any collector. Do you want a work by an established artist whose paintings are in important public art collections, such as that of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia? No problem. Or works by a mid-career artist who is beginning to make a reputation among local collectors? Done. What about emerging artists, or artists who work in non-traditional media? Done and done. All that and more was on view as I visited galleries, and I only went to four of them. Others were closed, or installing, or not featuring the group shows I was looking for. All in all, there is a rich range of artwork on view, and for sale, any time you would like here in HRM.
The summer group show is a staple of the commercial gallery business, at least in cities like this one, with a substantial summer tourist market. It is a way of introducing new audiences to the range of artwork made here, and to provide maximum exposure to the most artists that each gallery represents.
Secord Gallery, on Quinpool Road, represents artist who are mostly from Nova Scotia, with several familiar names to anyone who follows the provincial art scene: Wayne Boucher, Renee Forestall, Susan Tooke, Alan Bateman and Robert Rutherford, to name just a few. What you will see if you climb the stairs off of Quinpool’s busy commercial section is a warren of rooms filled with strong examples of very good local work (several of the artists have “RCA” after their names, which means that they have bene elected into the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts, no small achievement). Summer Exhibition isn’t thematic (Alan Bateman, for instance, is exhibiting a winter scene, a strong painting of a figure snowshoeing in the early dusk through an apple orchard), but it doesn’t need to be. As an introduction to the gallery and its approach, through the artists it represents, Summer Exhibition serves its purpose admirably.
At Studio 21, on Hollis Street (though the venerable gallery will be moving to a new location next month), the Robert Murray exhibition I covered last month is accompanied by another summer group exhibition of gallery artists. Changing as works sell, the show can be different form day-to-day. Again, featuring highlights from gallery artists, about a third of Studio 21’s impressive stable has works on view. A particular show-stopper in this exhibition is a large new work by Sara McCulloch. This Halifax-based artist is one of the best landscape painters in Nova Scotia, and Seaside Adjunct Inlet 2 (2018) lives up to her very high standards.
Across the street from Studio 21 is Art 1274 Hollis, an artist’s co-op that regularly features work by its members. While the majority of artists represented are realist painters, there are also jewellers, potters and sculptors, making for a very diverse experience. Members staff the gallery so when you visit there will always be an “artist-on-duty.” While not featuring a summer show per se, there are works by over twenty artists on view, all grouped together in a series of solo displays.
As gallery owner Adriana Afford laughingly pointed out to me when I got to Argyle Fine Art, I had chosen to visit on the craziest day of the year — the end of one show and just before installation started on their summer group project. That show is a little different than the other summer projects, the result of a call for submission on a specific theme: Under the Influence. Artists were asked to submit works that reflected the influence of another artist, and each work will be accompanied by an explanatory label that describes the impact of the influencer on the influenced. Art is a conversation, after all, and this is an opportunity to eavesdrop on 30 of them. Under the Influence opens on August 17 and runs until September 1.