This spring, all eyes from the art world were on Charleston—or, more specifically, Reinert Fine Art.
The King Street art gallery was chosen as the host gallery for the Oil Painters of America’s 2023 Annual Exhibition & Convention, which ran from March 31 to April 30.
“It’s one of the most prestigious art exhibits in the nation, so it’s certainly an honor to be selected,” says gallery director Jason Stone.
The Oil Painters of America (OPA) chose the gallery because of the type of art represented, the credentials of its artists and the size of the gallery. During the exhibition, work from about 240 artists was on display. Headquartered in Chicago, the lauded organization represents more than 3,500 artists from throughout North America and works to preserve and promote representational fine art.
It’s a great honor for the gallery, which has also hosted exhibits for the American Impressionist Society and the Plein Air Painters of the Southeast. The gallery is helmed by husband-and-wife team Rick and Ann Reinert and team members Stone, Diana May-McAllan, Megan Garner and Roger Evans. A contemporary impressionist painter and an art collector, respectively, the Reinerts opened the space on 179 King St. in bustling Downtown Charleston in 2011. An outdoor sculpture garden was added in 2015, then in 2019, Reinert Fine Art expanded to include the neighboring unit at 181 King St.
“Connecting the two spaces with our outside setting does create a magical experience,” Stone says of the courtyard that glues together the two galleries. “You can experience a journey of fine art through both spaces.”
Today, Reinert Fine Art represents more than 60 artists from around the country and the world, with a focus on oil paintings and sculpture.
“Oil paintings are the most archival medium, known to last for centuries, and we like the richer color tones that oil paintings provide,” Stone explains. “Because our outdoor courtyard is such an inviting space, we decided to add sculpture—primarily bronze sculpture—to create the outdoor sculpture garden.”
Within the walls of Reinert Fine Art, visitors can view works by Zhiwei Tu—the gallery is the only one in the United States representing the Chinese American artist and OPA master. He has created some of the world’s largest paintings, and a three-story museum in China houses more than 700 of his works. Reinert Fine Art has sold more than 40 of the artist’s paintings.
Local artists also draw the admiration of art lovers. Johns Island landscape artist Stephanie Marzella is among the gallery’s fastest-selling artists in her category, and Laura Lloyd Fontaine’s serene marsh scenes from James Island also attract many landscape collectors. Peggy Ellis, the daughter of artist Ray Ellis, lives just a few blocks from the gallery and has carried on the Ellis tradition of oil painting through her seascapes and still life works. Another nearby artist, James Pratt, offers dynamic nautical scenes created by palette knife only. Johns Island artist Angela Trotta Thomas, with 40 years of experience, beautifully portrays the restaurant and bar scenes of Charleston’s most beloved establishments. Dr. Jim Spann and Lynne Fraser are also proudly represented Charleston artists.
Of course, Rick Reinert’s own works grace the walls of the gallery as well. The prolific artist’s paintings hang in both public, corporate and private collections throughout the United States and Europe.
“We look for both the rising stars and the highly acclaimed. We feel our artists offer a very compelling price point,” Stone says.
Reinert Fine Art hosts special events once or twice a month to celebrate its artists, and visitors can enjoy a glass of wine as they walk the gallery and enjoy the sculptures alfresco in the courtyard. Each month, the gallery also participates in the First Friday Art Walks and Second Sunday on King Street revelry.
“Our guests are most likely to remember us from all of their activities around Charleston,” says Stone. “The goal is having an appeal to both the fine art connoisseur and the first-time collector and create a memorable experience.” *
Christiana Lilly is a freelance journalist in Pompano Beach, Florida. See more of her work spanning the arts, community news and social justice at christianalilly.com.