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A Manhattan art gallery finds a new home in Southport

The Hollis Taggart Art Gallery in Southport, Connecticut
Courtesy of Hollis Taggart
The Hollis Taggart Art Gallery in Southport, Connecticut

At the height of the pandemic, many New York City residents moved to Connecticut for some fresh air and open space. The Chelsea-based art gallery Hollis Taggart did the same.

Over the weekend, Paul Efstathiou, the gallery’s director of contemporary art, launched the opening night of the latest exhibition, Beyond the Surface.

During set up, Efstathiou spread the abstract, colorful pieces across the room, as he decided where to hang them in the gallery's new space.

“You know, I guess to explain things in layman's terms, it’s like the same thing like instruments,” Efstathiou told the WSHU podcast After All Things. “You have five really strong instruments on their own — the drums, the violin, the harp — and you just try to create how they can pair and mix together.”

The Hollis Taggart Art Gallery in Southport, Connecticut.
Sabrina Garone
WSHU Public Radio
The Hollis Taggart Art Gallery in Southport, Connecticut.

Efstathiou said New York City was a ghost town in the early days of the pandemic. That’s part of the reason the gallery opened its location in Southport in the summer of 2020. COVID-19 infections were a little lower, and as the first Chelsea-based gallery to open in Connecticut, it presented a fun challenge.

“Many of the Chelsea-based galleries were going to Palm Beach, or going to the Hamptons, which is all great, you have the community, but I just felt like we had the opportunity to pave our own way,” he said.

The gallery features abstract and representational work with bright colors, funky shapes and overlapping mediums. It's kind of a contradiction to the building they’re being displayed in. Rustic wood floors and ornate ceilings provide a more traditional backdrop for these unique pieces. Built in the early 1900s, the building was first home to a hardware store.

“The artists always love showing in different areas, different buildings, it gets them excited, too. So, it’s a win-win,” Efstathiou said.

Beyond the Surface is on display until April 30, featuring five New York-based artists, Edward Holland, Will Hutnick, Emily Kiacz, Lizbeth Mitty and Erika Ranee.

The art show’s title refers to the different ways the artists approached the actual surface of their canvas. Paint, crayon, sand, ink and other mediums were used to create these pieces. And while each one is very different from the next, Efstathiou said he’s tried to display them together so they have a conversation.

Seeing art in-person is a much more engaging experience for the viewer, Efstathiou said, and coming out of the pandemic, he's excited to be able to invite the public back.

“There were a lot of ‘jpeg shows,’ or shows digitally. But the artists want their works out there," he said. "That’s really important.”

Plus, with new gallery spaces popping up across the state, all these potentially new Connecticut artists will have lots of blank walls to fill.

Sabrina is host and producer of WSHU’s daily podcast After All Things. She also produces the climate podcast Higher Ground and other long-form news and music programs at the station. Sabrina spent two years as a WSHU fellow, working as a reporter and assisting with production of The Full Story.