Over the past ten years, the Charleston Fine Art Dealers’ Association (CFADA) and its member galleries have helped transform Charleston’s art market. Adhering to standards of professionalism, CFADA member galleries represent a diversity of fine art and talent; this fine balance of history and tradition combined with contemporary and modern pieces creates a unique art scene in Charleston. New and modern rub shoulders with the traditional; the appreciation of history allows for development and growth in a new direction.
Charleston has had a long lasting love affair with the arts. As early as 1708, the first documented professional artist in the United States, Henrietta Johnston, arrived in Charleston. As a widow, she supported her family by creating pastel portrait commissions. William Aiken Walker was a Charleston born artist and in the early 20th century, Charlestonian Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, who studied all over the world, became well know for her etched and pastel scenes.
From 1915-40, the Charleston Renaissance period was highlighted by the work of Verner, Alice Ravenel Huger Smith and Anna Heyward Taylor as well as long visits by nationally prominent artists such as Edward Hopper, Alfred Hutty and Childe Hassam.
These artists have something in common; they all painted the historic city, Southern life or its inhabitants. The subject matter still draws new talent to Charleston. It is safe to say that many local artists started painting because their creative souls were truly inspired by their surroundings.
The Charleston art market offers the past, present and future recorded in works of art featuring fine works of Charleston Renaissance and 21st century paintings from hundreds of local, national and international artists as well as modern and abstract art. Prominent art collectors travel to Charleston to find artistic gems and local art enthusiasts are keenly supporting the visual arts’ of the area.
Today, Charleston is considered by arts’ groups to be one of the top 10 arts’ destinations in the nation. Over the past 10 years, the Charleston Fine Art Dealers’ Association has been in the forefront of the art industry in Charleston and CFADA member galleries actively promoted the new Renaissance movement that started transforming Charleston’s art world in the mid-nineties. They have contributed to Charleston’s ranking by raising professional standards, bringing in new talent, contributing to local art programs and by introducing the finest works and art events to the city.
The collaboration of CFADA member galleries with the community is certainly significant. Each gallery supports an important cause and CFADA as a group raises money for local high schools’ art programs and scholarships. CFADA artists have contributed a tremendous amount of time and resources to Charleston’s new generation of artists. Many of them teach regular workshops for young students and give private lessons.
CFADA is credited with bringing some of the finest works of prestigious artists to Charleston. One such notable exhibit was the groundbreaking exhibit organized by Ella Richardson Fine Art showing graphic works by Picasso, Marc Chagall, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir in 2005. Ann Long Fine Art introduced an exhibit titled Maestros: Charles Cecil, Daniel Graves, Ben Long, and Jeffrey Mims in November 2008 in honor of four master painters who have been teaching classical painting techniques for over thirty years.
The Sylvan Gallery chose Charleston as its location and brought in many artists known well in other locations but unfamiliar to the southeast. The strong community established in the area and assisted by CFADA’s efforts contributed to the Sylvans’ choice. Helena Fox Fine Art mounted a show entitled “Support American Fishermen” in the spring of 2007 just as the world was recognizing the demise of local fishermen. Two additional contemporary galleries have opened in Charleston since the formation of CFADA – Robert Lange Studios and Corrigan Gallery. These illustrate the growth of the Charleston art market and the diversity of creative vision.
In November 1999, the Charleston Fine Art Dealers’ Association held its first Charleston Fine Art Annual that became a tradition and its signature event. Today, the multiple day fine art event attracts art collectors and visitors to Charleston, offering a chance to meet national and local artists and develop relationships to go along with their acquisitions.
In July 2006, CFADA also launched its art and food walk, the Palette and Palate Stroll, which grew into an exclusive evening of fine art, fine food and wine supported by the finest local restaurants and raising money for the CFADA’s art scholarship that is used to fund educational art programs at local institutions.