The history, gardens, and sea of South Carolina have long inspired a tradition of art both in Charleston and the surrounding Lowlands. In town, the annual Spoleto performing arts festival doesn’t focus on the visual arts, but still influences the city’s culture scene with shows featuring renowned dancers, singers, and actors. Year-round, painters set up plein-air easels on downtown streets to work on their harbor and marsh views. And gallery and pop-up events can be found on any block in 19th-century storefronts or diverse settings from Marion Square Park to the Old City Jail. Like a glass of wine with your art? On Friday nights, there’s likely an opening reception or two, or even a neighborhood art walk. These crawls are an easy, no-pressure way to check out what’s new on the art scene and meet some locals in a wandering crowd of Charleston’s culture-seekers. Here are a few of the best art galleries in Charleston.
Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art
Linked to the College of Charleston, the Halsey is a non-collecting contemporary art museum on Calhoun Street that brings in artists from around the world for temporary exhibits. Installations here are some of the most adventurous art shown in the city, and locals love it. A particularly memorable 2014 exhibit paired the work of native sons Jasper Johns and Shepard Fairey.
Charleston’s East Side isn’t as well known for its art scene, but this corner gallery on Bogard Street is home to contemporary shows with opening night crowds that regularly spill onto the sidewalk. Abstractions and textures often play a part in the stories of each artist’s work—it’s a fresh, modern take on art that’s happening right now.
This Queen Street gallery shows a long roster of interesting local artists and mediums spanning from representational and classic works to abstract pieces. Art here includes work from consummate Charleston art teacher and curator Corrie McCallum; Charleston surgeon and designer of several Piccolo Spoleto posters, Richard Hagerty; and surfboard artist/designer Gaston Locklear.
Ann Long Fine Art
For classical portraits, landscape works, and sculpture by living artists, this is Charleston’s go-to gallery. Hung in gorgeous frames on tall walls, the art already looks ready for a museum, but it’s offered for sale. Even for “just lookers,” this serious Broad Street gallery is a handsome and welcoming stop.
Robert Lange Studios
Every month they’ve got something new on the brick walls of this Queen Street gallery that’s known for works of realism and surrealism. Group and individual shows by emerging and established artists like local favorite Nathan Dufree open monthly, and owner Robert Lange paints in such a photographic quality that his works have visitors looking twice.