KENT — Kenise Barnes sat in the courtyard of the Kent Barns complex on a cloudy, chilly spring afternoon. Nearby and inside, workmen were putting the finishing renovation touches on a space that would soon become Barnes’ second gallery, Kenise Barnes Fine Art. The damp weather did little to subdue the obvious pleasure she felt about the soon-to-be opening of the Kent gallery, which will feature contemporary art.
“I’m very excited about the new space,” said Barnes, who also owns a gallery in Larchmont, N.Y. “Kent Barns is such a wonderful location with other galleries and shops. There is a real synergy between various businesses here and in Kent in general. When I first walked into the space where the new gallery will be, I said this is it! I was considering doing a pop up gallery in Kent but when I walked into 7 Fulling Lane I was smitten.”
The space has ambient light coming in through windows at the top of the walls and workmen are establishing a suitable inner shell for art work to be displayed. In a loft, Barnes will show some paintings along with other objets d’art. An ample storage space has also been created in the lower, basement level of the gallery.
To say that Barnes’ arrival as the newest member of the Kent gallery scene is somewhat serendipitous would not be a stretch. Let’s backtrack a bit. She and her husband, Mark Graf, an engineer, were looking for somewhere to live between Boston and Larchmont five years ago. They happened upon Kent and immediately were enamored with the town’s laid back, artsy vibe and purchased a home, a Victorian that they made their domicile.
“We just love Litchfield County,” she said as a light sprinkle began to fall, helping to usher in a new growing season and bring forth leaves and blooms on the trees and shrubs in Kent Barns. “The small towns have so much charm and we are still exploring them. I knew I wanted to open a second gallery close to home and this just made sense. It will mean I’ll be working probably seven days a week between the Larchmont gallery and here, but, oh well.”
The new gallery is housed in a contemporary post-and-beam building in the architecturally unique Kent Barns complex. Nestled in the Litchfield Hills, Kent has become a beacon for art and is home to five contemporary art galleries. Another is located off Main Street.
The Kent gallery will present new exhibitions throughout the year in the 1,150-square-foot main gallery. In addition to housing flat files, the new loft space will feature small artwork and sculpture. Said Barnes, “We will keep a wide selection of inventory on-site in our warehouse in the Kent location.” The gallery will be open Thursday through Monday.
Barnes modestly explains that she is not an artist herself but someone who knows fine art and displays that art in her galleries. Yet, she was a painting major in college and worked for the uber fine art auction house Christie’s after graduation. Prior to a six year stint with Christie’s East in New York City as a specialist in charge of contemporary art, Barnes attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia where she majored in painting, received a BA in Women’s Studies from Temple University, and took courses in Appraisal Studies at NYU.
“While what I was dealing with was artwork priced in the $50,000 and lower range, I had access to all of the contemporary art that was stored in the company’s site where I worked. The Christie’s specialists were so nice and accommodating as they explained the finer points of the art, the artists and their histories. It was like going to grad school. This is passion for me and the work just seeps into you. We are proud that we deal with artists who have deep resumes and are nationally and internationally known.”
Barnes said Lani Holloway, who has been managing the Larchmont gallery for almost five years, has been promoted to associate director of that location. Avery Syrig will specialize in art handling, logistics and sales. Stephanie Crawford will handle administrative support and will be joined by part-time employee Sophie Millette in May. “Scribble,” the gallery dog, will remain in her position as greeter and “general happiness manager,” and like Barnes, will split her duties between the two locations.
While the Internet has become a powerful force for sellers and buyers of fine art, Barnes doesn’t necessarily like the trend of the Amazoning of the world.
“We have a comprehensive website and we do sell on line because we have to in this day and age. But I think if you are going to spend money for a valuable and beautiful work of art you should see it firsthand to completely understand and appreciate what the artist has created. I hope people will come to our gallery in Kent and enjoy the experience.”
Yet, keeping up with the times, grudgingly or not, Barnes has just launched a new website at www.KBFA.com. The new platform offers enhanced features such as a “see in room” and an optimized interface for mobile devices, so individuals can browse offerings.
While Kent is on her mind, Barnes said, “We are grateful for the continued support of our Larchmont community where the gallery has thrived for 25 years. The Larchmont gallery will continue to present exciting programming featuring our established gallery artists, alongside young and emerging talent.” There are two exhibitions in Larchmont every six weeks and the gallery maintains an extensive inventory of more than 1,000 works in a warehouse. “You can rely on excellent customer service in both locations with a host of ways to enjoy art collecting, including consulting appointments, artwork on approval, delivery, installation, and worldwide shipping.”
An opening celebration of Kenise Barnes Fine Art on Fulling Lane will be held Saturday, May 11 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Visit www.KBFA.com for more information.