Rays of natural light cross paths with bright spotlights, bathing vibrant works of art and bringing forth their saturated colors and brush strokes, elucidating the emotion and story within each piece. Stark and dramatic portraits of wild African animals, elegant avant-garde pottery, out-of-the-box wearable art, sleek paintings of shiny, luxurious cars and intriguing works in the sculpture garden engage the imagination. Playful pieces rib you with a mischievous sense of humor, while colorful impressionistic faces seem to melt and shape-shift. Local photography makes you rethink the beauty of everyday moments. From local Alabama artists to internationally acclaimed masters in a diverse array of mediums and styles, the Grand Bohemian Gallery in Mountain Brook’s stylish new Grand Bohemian hotel is a 2,600-square-foot collection of ever-changing art that has something for everyone.
“We have tried to showcase an eclectic assortment in a warm, welcoming space. We really wanted to include everybody in aesthetics, price points and mediums. It is a little bit all over the place, but in a good way, in that people feel comfortable here and see something they can relate to,” says Katherine Miller, gallery director. “It’s not a stark, intimidating gallery. I think a lot of people hesitate to go into art galleries, because they think they can’t afford anything or that they aren’t welcome to come in and just look around. We don’t want our gallery to feel that way. We want it to be a place where people can spend time, ask questions and really learn about the art.”
And that involvement in the community is evident in the various events the gallery is constantly hosting, from monthly exhibitions and artists live-painting during the hotel’s Sunday brunch to Young at Art, which is a youth art forum launching in July. “We will feature artists in different mediums from different schools in the area — a drawer, a singer, a painter and a sculptor,” says Katherine. “We want to get young people involved because they are the future of the art world, and we want to help foster their creativity.”
Or come and peruse the gallery during the monthly HeARTful Happy Hour on the first Wednesday of every month from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., with free wine, beer and a chef’s choice appetizer. A portion of the proceeds from all art sales that evening will be donated to Studio by the Tracks, a nonprofit that provides free art classes to emotionally conflicted children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder or mental illnesses. The Grand Bohemian Gallery has been supporting the nonprofit, even hosting an exhibition of the works of local children and adults who are involved with it.
In fact, about 80 percent of the artwork in the gallery is from either Birmingham or Alabama artists. ”We want to be a part of the community and we really want to celebrate the incredible breadth of talent in our community,” says Katherine, a Mountain Brook native who earned a degree in Cassical Studies with an Art History minor from Georgetown, followed by a master’s in Art Business from the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York. After Sotheby’s, Katherine remained in New York and had a five-year stint at online retailer Gilt Groupe, managing several different categories in the Home business. Aching for her Southern home and learning of the new Mountain Brook hotel’s art gallery, she landed the job at the Grand Bohemian Gallery and moved back to Birmingham shortly after the hotel opened in October to begin curating the gallery’s collection.
And Katherine has not only been passionate about reaching the community, but also about giving local artists a platform. She attends as many art shows as she can throughout the community, scouting for talent. “I have loved getting to interact with artists and find new artists in Birmingham. It’s so neat when you get a phone call and someone says, ‘I’m an artist. Is it OK if I bring in my work?’ We love that,” says Katherine. “I love that I have the authority and the ability to give artists that opportunity to show their work in a grand space.”
The gallery is the brainchild of hotelier and art lover Richard Kessler, the CEO of the Kessler Collection, a group of 11 properties based in Orlando, FL. He worked for real estate developer Cecil Day for many years and helped co-found Days Inn, ultimately becoming president and chairman of the company. As he amassed his fortune, Richard became a prolific art collector. And most of the work throughout the art-focused, luxury boutique hotel is from his personal collection, and nearly all of of it is for sale. Internationally acclaimed artist Peter Robert Keil’s works line the hotel hallways. “[Richard] has over one thousand of Keil’s works,” says Katherine. “He started collecting Keil’s works early on and really helped build his reputation as an artist and his career.”
World-renowned French painter Jean Claude Roy and Italian painter Stefano Cecchini were both fairly well established when they each developed relationships with Richard, and their works have significantly risen in value and demand over time. The Grand Bohemian Gallery is honored to be the exclusive U.S. representative for both artists.
In addition to the diverse assortment of art and its tireless efforts to get involved in the community, the gallery also takes service to the next level, assisting clients in curating their own personal art collections and assisting in commissioning original works of art. “We know which artists are open to commissions and that’s something we’ve had great success with. We also work with collectors to help them figure out what they love and what they want,” says Katherine. “We let people take artwork on approval to see if you like a certain piece in a certain place in your home.” And Katherine and her team will come to your house to consult in terms of placement and will even install the newest piece of your collection.
“We are always evolving. There’s always new art on the walls. As we sell pieces, it makes room for something new, so that’s fun,” says Katherine. “And we are so new, so we are still sort of figuring out our role in the community. It’s such a vibrant time for Birmingham and we are so excited to be a part of this new face of Birmingham.”
Grand Bohemian Gallery is located at 2655 Lane Park Road in Mountain Brook. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (205) 203-4714 or visit the Grand Bohemian Gallery website.
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