When one thinks of scantily clad women, martinis and loud music, an art gallery isn’t the first thing to come to mind.
But for two South Florida men, this was their dream turned reality.
As the art scene in Brickell expands, owner Courtlandt McQuire says RedBar, 52 SW 10th St., offers what patrons won’t find in South Beach: the chance to sit down, have a drink and enjoy art at one’s leisure.
“We have lots of seating here, and most art galleries don’t have that,” said McQuire, of Fort Lauderdale. “Most galleries are too private and exclusive. It’s intimidating. When you’re able to sit back and relax, you can enjoy art better.”
RedBar sits in the heart of Brickell among other galleries such as Green Grass, a boutique that doubles as an art gallery; Artrageous Gallery; Beux Gallery; and Spirit del Art.
Arthur Porosoff, owner of Artrageous in Mary Brickell Village, opened his gallery almost two years ago and says his goal is to sell affordable, high-end art to educate young professionals in the area.
Artrageous showcases more than 70 pieces of local and international artwork, all under $1,000.
“I looked for a location for two years, and I didn’t choose South Beach because it’s kind of played out and the galleries are so far apart from each other that people don’t know where to go,” said Porosoff, 34.
RedBar presents more than 200 paintings on its walls, including about two dozen of nude women. The gallery/bar sells at least five pieces each month, and McQuire said he changes the selection every four to six weeks.
“We don’t charge for wall space like most galleries, and we have a full liquor license,” he said.
McQuire says he is most excited about the RedBar Gallery Bar-top Mural Contest, in which local artists submit their work to be judged by customers who buy $5 raffle tickets to cast their votes.
The artist with the most votes will keep all of the money raised from the raffle plus $1,500, and he or she will design the bar-top.
“The winning artist will draw a mural directly onto the bar-top, and I will seal it on with acrylic,” McQuire said.
The customer with the winning ticket will receive an original painting from that artist.
So far, 17 artists have submitted artwork. The winner is to be announced sometime next month, said McQuire, 39.
He prides himself on the bar’s design and layout.
Lighting around the bar is directed at the canvases, giving the appearance of colored lights.
McQuire, who is a painter himself, says he thinks RedBar has become popular because art spots such as South Beach and Wynwood tend to favor famous, out-of-town artists rather than locals.
His personal peeve lies with the annual art exhibition Art Basel in South Beach.
“It frustrates me that they sell the work of all these fancy artists but they’re not reaching out to the local community.”
The University of Kansas graduate boasts that he once had an “Anti-Art Basel” party.
McQuire holds a bachelor’s degree in visual communications and opened RedBar with his high school buddy Danny Baez in 2005.
McQuire’s wife, Michelle McQuire, says her husband and Baez work as a team: Baez deals with the numbers, and McQuire is a true artist at heart, she said.
“Danny was an economics major, and he really knows how to deal with the business aspect,” Michelle said. “This place is different because you don’t have anyone around you pushing you to buy art.”
McQuire says he chose to open the art gallery in Brickell because the area has a lot of permanent residents.
“When we were looking for places to open RedBar, we didn’t choose South Beach because it was too pricey and crowded,” he said. “Brickell was really emerging at that time, and we knew that in five years this would be the right place.”