Exploring the Artistic Heart of Charleston, South Carolina: A Guide to the City's Top Galleries

Posted by Robert Lange on

The Artistic Soul of Charleston, SC


  • Charleston has a rich art scene filled with some of the most unique and diverse art galleries in the the country. In the last twenty years, after nationally recognized Mayor Joseph P. Riley helped revitalized the the upper part of the peninsula, a cultural explosion took place with new restaurants and a boom of over 50 fine art galleries opening their doors.
  • Art has long played a key roll in Charleston’s history and culture with the establishment of the Charleston Museum dating back to 1773, establishing it as the oldest museum in the country. This historic foundation has created over 300 years of art being preserved and displayed. The museum’s collection includes portraits of people such as Benjamin Simons Heyward, Captain William Hall, and Carolia Lafayette Seabrook. These fine art pieces are in addition to the Lowcountry History Hall and the Historic Armory.


The Crown Jewels of Charleston's Art Scene


Premier Art Galleries in Charleston


  • There are a number of standout galleries in Charleston, over 35 listed on the Charleston Galleries Association annual Map and website and we’ll just highlight a few of the nationally recognized ones here that are located near our gallery. Starting with Principle Gallery, considered a beacon of fine art in the south with two locations including Charleston and Alexandria, VA. Like our gallery they are focused on contemporary realism and boast a large collection of sculptures in their Meeting Street location. They focus on featuring international artists and new works in downtown Charleston bringing in mid career painters to elevate Charleston’s art scene.
  • Corrigan Gallery, we would consider the essence of lowcountry fine art, with a more eclectic and whimsical mixture of southern painters and found object sculptors. As an artist owned gallery like our own, we consider it a very well curated small space filled with hidden gems. The space is perfect for showcasing Charleston artists and contemporary gallery exhibitions in a fanciful way.



Must-Visit Galleries for Art Enthusiasts

  • Hagan Fine Art: Where Southern Charm Meets Fine Art

    • A blend of American and European fine art on Church Street, Hagan gallery, like Corrigan and us, is artist owned. Many of the painters focus on bold brushstrokes in a classic painterly style, who create still lives and landscapes that we would describe as feel-good brighten-your-life kind of art.

  • Robert Lange Studios: Innovating Art in the Heart of Charleston

    • Opening our doors over 20 years ago as one of the only galleries at the time focusing on contemporary realism, our 6,000 square foot contemporary gallery space showcases now and featured artists then, the likes and style of which had not been seen in Charleston before. Hosting creative events for all to attend, as well as by appointment private viewings, our gallery (not to toot our horn too much) has attained a status of Best Gallery in Charleston by both Charleston Living Magazine and the Charleston City Paper but also a reputation for cultivating emerging painters and fostering the careers of a number of highly recognized artists including Robert Lange and Brett Scheifflee.


Why Charleston's Galleries Stand Out


  • Integration of local Lowcountry themes with international artistry is the true measure of what makes Charleston such a unique and destination worthy art scene. Unlike larger markets like New York or Miami, Charleston, often called the Santa Fe of the South, has galleries closely clustered together with a wide breath of diversity. During the monthly first friday ArtWalks, organized by the Charleston Gallery Association, art lovers can stroll from fine art gallery to fine art gallery and drink wine while discovering new works, featured artists in all mediums, including oil paintings, glass works, bronze sculptures and acrylic paintings.

  • Each gallery frequently features their new arrivals during these First Friday exhibitions. So each month feels like a new adventure in art. Many of the galleries are sandwiched between King Street and Broad Street, featuring acclaimed artists in Charleston’s European feeling historic district called the French Quarter.


Planning Your Artistic Journey in Charleston, South Carolina


Navigating Charleston's Art World

  • Here are a few tips on attending first Friday Artwalks and upcoming events in Charleston including shows at the Halsey Institute and the Gibbes Museum. Once you have your hotel, ideally located near or in the French Quarter, start by making food reservations. Although the city has hundreds of top rated restaurants with plenty of James Beard awards and commendations, getting a table the first Friday of the month is no easy task.

  • Yes, there is a best time to visit the Charleston galleries. You will realize very quickly if you are not from the South that time is a relative thing in the Lowcountry. Some galleries have signs that read “by chance” for their hours, however, most galleries are open 11-5 Monday-Saturday and almost all you can make a by appointment request to visit and sometimes even meet an artist.


Making the Most of Your Visit

  • Start with the Charleston Gallery Association website for a list of what shows are where and if you are adventurous, there are also guided art tours. We like “Bricks and Brushes” Art Tours with our previous gallery director Carri Schwab, who grew up in Charleston. We also love "Walk and Talk" Charleston with local artist West Frasher. After that we’d recommend picking up the phone and just calling (or emailing) us and asking what is a current must see in town. You will quickly discover that the reputation of hospitality is not over exaggerated in Charleston.

  • If you are a no crowds person there are a number of ways to connect with galleries for private viewings and appointments or we would recommend starting your day right at 11:00.


The Endless Discoveries in Charleston's Art Scene

  • Art lovers worldwide flock to Charleston and it’s no wonder, it really has it all. Hosting festivals like Spoleto and Food and Wine, as well as the SouthEastern Wildlife Expo, Charleston you will quickly discover is everyones favorite city to walk around. It’s safe, it’s beautiful and it’s packed with nothing but the finest art and food. You won’t even need (or want) a car.

  • We encourage you to explore both well-known galleries and some hidden gems while you are in the city. The City Gallery often has large mostly local or regional shows that are open to the public and free. There are main streets to explore, like Broad and King Street but also take a walk down Queen Street and East Bay. Anything south of Calhoun Street is picturesque. And of course, come see us at 2 Queen Street and we’ll glad you send you in the right direction.

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