Contemporary Art Queen
Whether you’re looking for a painting to hang over your sofa, or just a quiet and meditative space to see art, Tinney Contemporary welcomes both Nashville locals and visitors. The inviting, brightly lit glass façade of this art gallery gives way to a shiny black floor that, like dark pond, reflects the artwork hanging on the white walls. Tinney Contemporary exhibits an international roster of artists, rotating its shows every few months. The first Saturday of each month, the gallery participates in the city’s major Art Crawl. Don’t take it from us, though. Here’s what founder Susan Tinney has to say about her business and the gallery’s upcoming shows.
Describe the process of opening your own gallery in Nashville. What made the city an ideal place to launch Tinney Contemporary?
Given my background in the biotech industry, opening a contemporary art gallery in downtown Nashville may seem like an improbable track. I come from a family of artists, so it was not a stretch when, needing to add a creative element to my life apart from my science-minded profession, I began a series of what would now be described as pop-up shows in my home, showcasing contemporary art from many of my artist friends. I did several of these over the years and became fairly well known in Nashville for these one night events. Some years later, at a very early point in Nashville’s trajectory toward “it city”, a visionary developer had the idea of anchoring his project with an art gallery in the historic Kress Building in downtown Nashville. I was a bit of a pioneer I guess, given there was only one other gallery on 5th Avenue when I decided to purchase the space. Retrospectively, the timing wasn’t great with the financial collapse occurring the following year. But I stuck it out, and continued to invest my own capital in the gallery with the hope that my vision for the downtown area to become a vibrant arts district would catch on. And thankfully it did. We’ve been here for almost 12 years and have seen an explosion of development and residents downtown. That certainly has been good for our business.
How do you find the artists you represent? Discuss what you look for and how you formed your roster.
The way we find artists and the way we built our portfolio has been somewhat synchronized. I started building our roster initially with gut instinct. I met with artists whose work appealed to me personally and whose work I wanted to own myself. When adding artists to our early portfolio I was often introduced to new artists by the artists I was representing. That’s how I started. But today, the process is a bit different. As we’ve grown and become more successful, artists from all over the world submit their portfolios to us because they’ve heard about us and are interested in working with us. Although we look at every submission, we are very thoughtful when adding new artists. We do this very carefully and very judiciously, keeping in mind our current portfolio of artists and our collector base but recognizing the need to encourage the next generation of collectors, which has altered a few of our artist additions. And though we are aware of the business of art, we also realize there is a social responsibility to present art that expresses the world in which we live. While we have always brought in shows that engage our collectors, the past couple of years have made for some of the most challenging shows and are the ones that I am most proud to have curated.
What’s coming up this spring for Tinney Contemporary?
In April and May we have one of our superstar artists Jaq Belcher. This will be Jaq’s third solo show with us and it is one of the highlights for collectors. We are constantly asked when she will be showing again. We honestly can’t keep her work in stock. Jaq works with a single sheet of white paper and an X-Acto knife. She is a paper cut artist whose obsessive, contemplative works are extraordinary. And there is always an installation element as part of her show. It is a crowd favorite. Following Jaq’s show will be Nashville-based artist James Perrin in June, whose work will be simultaneously shown at the Frist Center. From July to mid August we will have two amazing artists, Cecil Touchon, whose paintings are abstractions based on typography, and Niels Shoe Meulman, the famous calligraffiti street artist.
Where in Nashville do you visit for inspiration or unwinding?
My go-to place for unwinding is Radnor Lake. If I don’t start there in the morning, I end there in the late afternoon. It grounds me in nature, which is so very important to me these days.
Stop by the gallery during your stay at Thompson Nashville to view these impressive contemporary works.