Up an old wooden staircase on King Street in downtown Charleston, there’s an intimate gallery space, complete with hardwood floors and exposed brick, that houses the finest wilderness and sporting scenes as well as contemporary fine art.
It’s a brutally humid day when I bound up the stairs to The Sportsman’s Gallery and Paderewski Fine Art. This type of August day drags on slowly, and you wish you could be fishing on a boat or hiking in the Rockies. But, if you can’t be in those places, setting foot in The Sportsman’s Gallery might be the next best thing.
“Art captures memories,” says Michael Paderewski, owner of the two galleries. “You’re selling fond memories, especially with sporting art, because you’re capturing moments in time. Often people tell me that when they’re sitting in their office, say, in Manhattan, that they prefer to look at a work that reminds them of where they want to be.” And that’s usually outside, in nature, enjoying the sporting life.
Paderewski’s gallery may be new to the Charleston area, but Paderewski himself is certainly not new to the art world. His first
Ronald Tinney, Dance of Color brick-and-mortar gallery opened 15 years ago in Atlanta, Georgia. Another gallery opened four years later in Beaver Creek, Colorado. (It’s no coincidence that it’s surrounded by the majestic landscapes of Colorado.) Paderewski comes to Charleston with those 15 years’ experience and new artists and styles to showcase.
“We want to provide something for everyone,” Paderewski says, “from established collectors to new ones. Including contemporary art in our gallery is one way to broaden our reach and appeal.”
The vibrant work of contemporary artist Steve Penley is one of the first sights that pull you into the gallery. His portraits of Mark Twain and Teddy Roosevelt, displayed side by side, show an unmistakable American strength and complement the sporting and wilderness scenes around them.
The roster of artists that Paderewski represents is large and stylistically varied. Walk past Penley’s contemporary portraits, and you’ll see serene marsh scenes and seascapes by Ronald Tinney, pastoral abstracts by Patrick Matthews and bronze statues by Sandy Graves and Gustavo Torres. The gallery bursts with talent and life. Subjects vary from fly-fishing to African wildlife to North American big game animals.
Alongside the living legends that Paderewski showcases—artists such as Eldridge Hardie, whose oil pieces are recognized as some of the finest sporting art available— there are also pieces from deceased masters such as Edmund Osthaus and Frank Benson, whose etchings and paintings are prized by serious art collectors. African game pieces from David Hadaway round out the gallery’s collection.
“The work we represent is vibrant and has a life of its own,” Paderewski says, adding that having multiple galleries allows him to offer a range of artists and styles.
After 15 successful years in Atlanta and Colorado, Paderewski says he feels right at home in the Lowcountry.
“This art is a passion for us and we’re excited about the Charleston market. It reminds me of Savannah, where I grew up. It feels good to be back in the Southeast. The charm and intimacy of Charleston perfectly reflect what we are about.”
You don’t have to live the sporting life to be captivated by the allure of nature or the majesty of animals. The artists showcased in Paderewski’s gallery draw you into their world, so that, even when you’re at work, you’ll really be somewhere else.