Palm Avenue Embraces the Fantastic with Milan Art Gallery

Arts & Culture

Pictured: His Raisin Cakes Sustain Me by Elli Milan. Photo by Phil Lederer.

The resurgence of the Downtown Sarasota gallery scene continues this evening with the grand opening celebration of Milan Art Gallery, the latest in a string of openings transforming the southern end of Palm Avenue, once again, into an Art Walk destination. And while those expecting a staid offering of Italian art from the grand city of Milan will be perhaps perplexed, those who have been waiting for their chance to buy a full-size oil painting of dueling pegasuses in the fine art tradition have seen the answer to their prayers.

A family gallery, the Milan in the name has nothing to do with Italy and, as such, the walls are free to be filled with absolutely none of those well-known and over-photographed castles or cathedrals. There are no charming scenes of the Italian countryside. Rather, the walls play host to the wild imaginings of the Milan family—husband-and-wife artists John and Elli, as well as their daughter Dimitra—all pouring forth in oil paintings of fantastical creatures and unexplainable juxtapositions, a phantasmagorical tableau of the surreal and the strange. It’s Old Masters meets Modern Madness and mermaids, unicorns, pink elephants and a bass-playing cat are all fair game for subject matter.

“You definitely don’t see this everywhere,” says Heather Davis, Artist Consultant for Milan Art Gallery. “But art doesn’t have to be the way it’s always been.” And there’s a certain democratization at play when professional artists eschew the norms of fine art while still practicing at a high level, elevating subject matter typically dismissed as childish or silly through their craft. It’s not altogether unintentional. “Everyone is creative and art is for anybody,” Davis says, and that’s a central message of the gallery.

Work from all three Milans will be on display at tonight’s opening, as well as several collaborative works that see the family working in pairs or as one. And with the artists in attendance, there will be live painting demonstrations, as well as an opportunity for visitors to try their hand at prying some of the secret meaning from the creators themselves. Guests will also have a chance to meet the gallery’s incoming art director, Jock Armour, formerly of Wyland Gallery in Maui, which was lost to the recent fires. In the role, Armour will be responsible for bringing in more artists to show next to the Milans in future exhibitions.

The rear room of the gallery will also be open to the public, where visitors are free to leaf through hundreds of original works in graphite, ink, oils and more, showing the artists at their most playful and illustrative.

“I hope people walk away knowing that beauty resides in all of us and everybody can be an artist,” Davis says. “Only our thoughts hold us back.”

Located on 72 S. Palm Avenue, Milan Art Gallery celebrates its grand opening tonight from 5-9pm. Catering will be supplied by Café L’Europe and live music provided by a cellist.

Pictured: His Raisin Cakes Sustain Me by Elli Milan. Photo by Phil Lederer.

To learn more about Milan Art Gallery, click here.

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