How to Travel Like An Insider: Charleston, South Carolina

May 1, 2015 | Tracy Minkin

 

Independent Bookstore: Blue Bicycle Books. Don’t let the 10 feet of storefront fool you; 50,000 new, used, and rare books. The best collection on and about Charleston in the city. 420 King Street, bluebicyclebooks.com

Coffeehouse: Black Tap Coffee. The roast their own on nearby James Island; the coffeehouse is sunlit and has a stand-up bar for espresso fiends. 70 ½ Beaufrain Street, www.blacktapcoffee.com

Great Gallery: Rebekah Jacob Gallery. Impeccably curated contemporary fine art and photography of the American South. Simultaneously sophisticated and accessible. 54 Broad Street, 2nd level, www.rebekahjacobgallery.com

Cocktail: The Red Wedding, Edmund’s Oast. One of the hippest bars in town reinvents a classic Southern pairing of bourbon and sweet tea. 1081 Morrison Drive, edmundsoast.com

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City Guide: Charleston, S.C. Art Galleries

From classic to contemporary, regional to global, discoveries abound in the Southeast’s art capital.

March 2015 | Elizabeth Pandolfi

 

Outside the French Quarter—but still in downtown Charleston—you’ll find some of the city’s more forward-thinking art galleries, like the Rebekah Jacob Gallery (RJG). Jacob is a consummate and dedicated gallery owner who tirelessly seeks out the very finest art of the American South. Focusing on painting and photography, RJG represents artists like William Christenberry, Gary Geboy, Kevin Taylor, and Pinkney Herbert. “Our goals is to represent the rich fine art of the American South with both an appreciation of its past, and a fierce eye on its future,” Jacob says. An additional focus for Jacob is historic and contemporary Cuban photography—she spent time in the country in the 1990s, and has acquired a large collection of images of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, among other historic figures, from the Cuban Revolution. RJG’s March show will highlight artists Charlie McAlister, Kevin Taylor, and John Pundt, who work together in an arts commune on James Island, near the city of Charleston. Jacob is very enthusiastic about the multimedia exhibition. “They have all been like brothers with an art cause for many years, and one can see the influence they’ve had on each other,” she says. “It’s a tripartite collaboration of sorts.”

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Trending Now:

the masters of Cuban revolutionary propaganda photography

Teresa Bruce | FEBRUARY 26, 2015


Imagine being an art history graduate student invited into the personal studio of famed Cuban photographer “Chinolope” Lopez. One of the guys who shot the Cuban revolution for Life and Time. Not quite as famous as Alberto Korda or Raul Corrales but just as amazing. Reportedly got his nickname from Che himself. You fall in love with one of his prints. He goes to show you the negatives. But they’re a gooey mess, stuck together and irreparably damaged. You want to cry for what is lost to future generations.

Gallerist Rebekah Jacaob, on the left, showing me the work of Cuban masters

Gallerist Rebekah Jacaob, on the left, showing me the work of Cuban masters

That’s exactly how Rebekah Jacob remembers feeling when she was on one of her first trips to Havana. Chinolope shrugged it off but she never could. The experience represents the twin hopes and frustrations of dealing with revolutionary Cuban photography, the kind she now sells at her gallery in Charleston, South Carolina.

Sixty years after they were made, these images are still gasp-inducing. There’s the infamous Korda shot of El Che before it was cropped into the ubiquitous image emblazoned on coffee mugs and T-shirts around the globe.

ALBERTO KORDA; Guerrillero Herico, 1960; 20 x 16 inches; Gelatin Silver print

ALBERTO KORDA; Guerrillero Herico, 1960; 20 x 16 inches; Gelatin Silver print

My favorite though, is the epic image of victorious riders on horseback captured by the late Raul Corrales.

“Cuban photography was hot in the 90s,” Jacobs says. “In part because the revolutionary photographers were still alive and had access to American markets. Galleries like the one in Mississippi I worked for at the time would come to the island in the Spring, bringing the photographers chemicals and paper they couldn’t get on the island, and then come back in the Fall to pick up the work. ”


The other part was the tireless lobbying of Sandra Levison who, in 1991, won a pioneering lawsuit against the U.S. Treasury Department that made it legal to import original Cuban art. (Read more about her in this article.)

While the second generation of photographers who apprenticed under the masters (like Korda’s printer Jose Figueroa) were moving on, doing conceptual work and documenting the lives of ordinary Cubans, American collectors were still gobbling up vintage prints of El Che and Castro.

Then Cuba stopped accepting payments in U.S. dollars and the Bush administration clamped down even harder on travel restrictions. Art collectors today could theoretically walk into darkrooms like Lopez’s and take as many prints as they like back to the United States — if only they could spend dollars or pay with credit cards in Cuba.

While the second generation of photographers who apprenticed under the masters (like Korda’s printer Jose Figueroa) were moving on, doing conceptual work and documenting the lives of ordinary Cubans, American collectors were still gobbling up vintage prints of El Che and Castro.

Then Cuba stopped accepting payments in U.S. dollars and the Bush administration clamped down even harder on travel restrictions. Art collectors today could theoretically walk into darkrooms like Lopez’s and take as many prints as they like back to the United States — if only they could spend dollars or pay with credit cards in Cuba.

“Access dried up, right at the time the old masters were dying or losing their negatives to the incredible humidity,” Jacobs says. Because of Cuba’s uniquely isolated situation, they didn’t have access to photography’s digital revolution – losing out on technology that might have saved the likes of Lopez’s gooey negatives, or at least help him market those that did survive.

“Cuba just didn’t have the bandwidth and the photographers got left behind.” By 2004, Jacobs wasn’t selling nearly as much work by Cuban photographers. “The Cuban photography market stalled and the inventory just contracted.”

The good news is that change is coming. On February 27th, 2015, the second round of talks to normalize relations between Cuba and the United States gets underway in Washington and that, Jacobs says, is renewing interest in the market for Cuban revolutionary photographers. The inventory of vintage prints is still low but ever since President Obama announced the move to end détente in December, collectors have perked up. Jacobs predicts prices to skyrocket in the next six months, regardless of how long it takes for travel to return to pre-embargo levels.

So what makes the work of Lopez, Corrales and Korda so collectable years after its propaganda value faded? It goes beyond the images themselves, a by-product of the unique access they had to Che and Castro during the revolution. “These were great craftsmen. They improvised everything and had to print in their bathroom sinks but each one had their own unique style. The tones were all very different. You can look at a print and know who made it.”

Jacobs isn’t alone in her appreciation for and confidence in the market for Cuban photography. Here’s an excerpt from a recent piece in the Seattle Times.

That pipeline of art lovers is about to grow, predicts Alberto Magnan, whose Manhattan gallery Magnan Metz specializes in Cuban art. Magnan, who is currently in Havana, received 25 calls from collectors on Dec. 17, after Obama announced that the two countries would move to restore diplomatic ties. He is now booked through March with Cuba visits.
“It’s absolutely crazy,” he said.
Even though Americans can visit Cuba under rules dating to 2009 that allow “purposeful travel” intended to foment contact with Cubans, many shied away, Magnan said.
“It’s a hassle,” he said, referring to the need to get a license from the U.S. government and pay for works without using a U.S. credit card. Now, however, “they’re saying, ‘I want to go before everyone else does’.”

Raul Corrales; Caballeria, 1960; 16 x 20 in; Gelatin silver print

Raul Corrales; Caballeria, 1960; 16 x 20 in; Gelatin silver print

“Cuba just didn’t have the bandwidth and the photographers got left behind.” By 2004, Jacobs wasn’t selling nearly as much work by Cuban photographers. “The Cuban photography market stalled and the inventory just contracted.”

The good news is that change is coming. On February 27th, 2015, the second round of talks to normalize relations between Cuba and the United States gets underway in Washington and that, Jacobs says, is renewing interest in the market for Cuban revolutionary photographers. The inventory of vintage prints is still low but ever since President Obama announced the move to end détente in December, collectors have perked up. Jacobs predicts prices to skyrocket in the next six months, regardless of how long it takes for travel to return to pre-embargo levels.

So what makes the work of Lopez, Corrales and Korda so collectable years after its propaganda value faded? It goes beyond the images themselves, a by-product of the unique access they had to Che and Castro during the revolution. “These were great craftsmen. They improvised everything and had to print in their bathroom sinks but each one had their own unique style. The tones were all very different. You can look at a print and know who made it.”

Jacobs isn’t alone in her appreciation for and confidence in the market for Cuban photography. Here’s an excerpt from a recent piece in the Seattle Times.

That pipeline of art lovers is about to grow, predicts Alberto Magnan, whose Manhattan gallery Magnan Metz specializes in Cuban art. Magnan, who is currently in Havana, received 25 calls from collectors on Dec. 17, after Obama announced that the two countries would move to restore diplomatic ties. He is now booked through March with Cuba visits.
“It’s absolutely crazy,” he said.


Even though Americans can visit Cuba under rules dating to 2009 that allow “purposeful travel” intended to foment contact with Cubans, many shied away, Magnan said.
“It’s a hassle,” he said, referring to the need to get a license from the U.S. government and pay for works without using a U.S. credit card. Now, however, “they’re saying, ‘I want to go before everyone else does’.”

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ORGANIC LEGACIES

Written by Editor | January 27, 2015

 

Pieces of scrap glass left over from framing jobs at Beaufort’s Charles Street Gallery are making their artistic debut in Charleston as negatives in Gary Geboy’s new collection of platinum palladium and wet plate collodion photography.

GARY GEBOY; Spiky Aloe; platinum palladium print on handmade Kuzo Japanese paper

GARY GEBOY; Spiky Aloe; platinum palladium print on handmade Kuzo Japanese paper

The exhibit, “Organic Legacies” opens February 12th at the Rebekah Jacob Gallery at 502 King Street in Charleston. It features the work of Geboy and painter/printmaker Tom Nakashima. Both artists focus on abandoned buildings and trees, in various stages of the life cycle, but interpreted in wholly different ways.

Nakashima’s work on paper was inspired by a pile of fruit trees uprooted to make way for a housing development in Berryville, Virginia. Geboy’s natural subjects are closer to home, most of them collected in the Lowcountry and then photographed on his Beaufort back porch under natural light.

“I needed a way to convey the fragility of these overlooked treasures and there’s nothing more fragile than glass,” says Geboy.

For his last exhibit, a 2013 pairing with Beaufort fiber artist Kim Keats, Geboy worked in platinum palladium, a vintage process made famous by late 19th century masters like Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Curtis. For the month-long “Organic Legacies” show in Charleston he adds an even older technique photographic technique, invented in 1851, called wet plate collodion.

“You might not recognize the process by name, but if you’ve ever looked at Civil War images by Matthew Brady’s photographers you’ve seen wet glass plate collodion,” says Rebekah Jacob, gallery owner and southern art historian. “Gary breathes new life into a forgotten process and preserves a part of the South that is truly universal.”

Geboy sees his reach back into the archives of photographic techniques as an anecdote to the contemporary landslide of digital images. “I love my camera phone as much as the next person, but there’s a difference between recording daily life and making images that are truly one-of-a-kind and process is part of that distinction.”

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Art Meets Technology

January 9th, 2015 | Jason Zwiker 

 

Your text message pings Rebekah Jacob’s mobile device when she’s boarding a flight half a world away. You’re also at an airport, but in another time zone. New work by your favorite artist is at the Rebekah Jacob Gallery (RJG) right now. It’s alive with colors and textures, and the subject perfectly complements your collection.

What to do? Art is an investment. One wants to choose wisely and not miss an opportunity. But dealer and collector are thousands of miles apart.

In days gone by, you’d check your schedule, book a flight and find a few hours to visit the gallery in Charleston. With luck, that perfect addition to your collection would still be available.

Today, however, RJG is making it easier than ever for art lovers to follow the artists they know and love, discover new artists and build a collection. The RJG website and associated social media adapt easily for viewing on the go, whether on an iPhone, Android or iPad. And a secure membersonly area for collectors and qualified buyers allows them to transact online—or request the work to be shipped on approval to their home or office.

“I’ve watched galleries that have been around for 40 to 50 years, owned and operated by top-dealers, fail because they couldn’t adapt to tech,” says Jacob. “The reality is that e-commerce is shifting the art market rapidly.”

Energetic and keenly focused, Jacob is an astute scholar of both traditional and emerging ways of doing business. RJG, one of Charleston’s most respected galleries, represents top talent such as Tarleton Blackwell, Sarah Haynes and Charlie Mcalister. It combines a profound respect for the artistic tradition of the American South with innovation and forward thinking.

Mobility and tech are the future, according to Jacob, both online and through appearances at art fairs, which allow galleries to show their work outside of traditional spaces. “I don’t see physical spaces being eliminated, but I do see them shrinking in the future,” she says. “Ninety-five percent of our buyers are second-home owners in Charleston and globe-trotters. We have to be savvy and astute in staying in front of them via Internet and social media.”

Communications associate P.J. Roberson, a graduate of the College of Charleston and Sotheby’s Institute in London, holds degrees in art history and arts management. She has been instrumental in securing RJG’s success in social media. Building platforms on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook is an art in and of itself. Each social media site represents its own distinct demographic, and tailoring material for each requires versatility and a sensitive finger on an ever-changing pulse.

Photography and works on paper sell very well online, RJG has found, especially works under $5,000, which appeal to younger collectors who are very comfortable navigating the Internet, interacting with social media and transacting online.

Once a month, a Web-based exhibit, appropriately titled Off the Wall, features works of special interest to these collectors. Art consultant and marketing director Grace Chapin, whose stellar resume includes experience with the Impressionist & Modern Art department of Sotheby’s International Auction House in London and the Smithsonian American History Museum in Washington, D.C., browses the bins for art that will satisfy both the price point and aesthetic taste of this young, hip, Internet-friendly audience. Works selected are discounted 15 percent while the exhibit runs.

“We spend a lot of time strategizing, creating and constantly modifying the RJG website so that art lovers can peruse it quickly and efficiently, then email or call with a list of artworks of interest,” Jacob says. “When the client calls or walks in the door, we are prepared with precise inventory, data, market comps and general information they can review and distill before purchasing. There will always be a need for physical interaction to connect fine art to the buyer, but tech is the key to growth and mobility.”

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