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5 Questions with Susan Laney

LANEY Contemporary Fine Art is a bit off the beaten path, but it’s worth the drive.

The art representation service just moved into the second floor at 1810 Mills B Lane Blvd. and will open on Sept. 28 with work by Katherine Sandoz, Betsy Cain, Marcus Kenney, Todd Schroeder, Pamela Wiley, Stephanie Howard, Will Penny, Benjamin Jones, and Jack Leigh.

The unique space was a change of pace for Susan Laney, a gallerist and private art dealer who runs Laney Contemporary. The space is anything but a traditional gallery, with a mirrored wall and a bar in the back room.

Even before its opening, Laney Contemporary has generated buzz, being named in Vogue as the premier art space in Savannah.

We spoke with Laney last week.

1. How did you get started with this space?

I had a gallery downtown, the Jack Leigh Gallery. It sort of happened organically that I fell in love with the work I was doing. Jack passed away in 2004, and I kept the gallery open until 2007, then I closed it down. We went out with champagne in our glasses and a really great party, and then the recession hit, so I was like, “Thank you, Jack, for telling me to close.” I always thought I’d have another gallery if I really wanted to do it.

Then my husband [Frank Ellsworth] and his business partner bought this building. Frank was like, “You have to see the upstairs.” I was like, “Dude, it’s on Mills B Lane, I don’t even know where that is. What are you talking about?” Then I walked in and I was like, no, you’re right. These floors were orange and the walls were dark brown and there was no track lighting, and I was like, this is right.

2. Did you envision the space being away from downtown?

What I didn’t really want to do again is I didn’t want to do the thing where people just wander in and go, “La la la, I’m browsing.” I don’t mind that, but I did it long enough. It’s not the direction I wanted to go in.

It’s seven minutes away. We have parking! It’s faster than you would find parking downtown. You can come here, park your car, and get inside faster than you would find parking downtown.

3. What can we expect for the grand opening?

The cool thing is that this grand opening is very much a taste of some of the artists I represent, hinting at the programming that’s coming in the next year. All of the work has never been shown before except for Jack Leigh’s; they’re all new works.

It’s an exhibition for certain with some amazing work and that is the point, but I feel like a taste of the different things we’re working with is the best way for people to learn about us, what our services are, what we’re planning on, see the space, get over the craziness of this space. I love a whitewall gallery, don’t get me wrong, but what a lot of people love about this space is you’ve got something that could be in a home, but sort of a weird home.

4. Tell me about working in art representation.

I’m trying to present something where I can find work that people love and marry the right work with the right person. We can improve lives. We want people to find things they love. Certainly I want people to come here and have a great experience, but in the end I’m hoping that they find work that they want to live with. I just love making connections and working with people and finding things they love. Someone will describe the art they’re looking at and I’ll say, “I know the artist. Let’s go to their studio.”

5. How has being named in Vogue affected your business?

You know, I used it in my press release because it’s really nice to hear that. Beyond that, it let some people here know about me and maybe some people who are coming to Savannah will seek me out. Beyond that, I don’t really know if it did anything. I was really excited to be included in a group of people who hadn’t been mentioned very much. I haven’t gotten a lot of press yet, and I’m just gonna take it.