monterey bay art

Art — Portrait of a Place

Monterey Bay California USA

Francis McComas (1874–1938), Monterey, California, circa 1903, watercolor on paper, 8.5x21.5 in. Collection Monterey Museum of Art, a gift from the Collection of Alva A. Christensen and Helen B. Christensen, 2000.040.
Photograph courtesy Monterey Museum of Art

Monterey Bay's versatile and storied art scene is waiting to be explored.

By Otis Conklin

You don't have to be a veteran curator to make a compelling argument that Carmel-by-the-Sea as we know it wouldn't exist without art. The charming village took shape a century back as a hippie art commune for the bohemians of the San Francisco Bay Area. Today the amount of storefronts presenting plein air landscapes (and other adventurous scenes) is impressive, especially given the number of restaurants and retail outlets with which they compete.

Monterey Bay Fine Arts

Richard MacDonald, Allongé Male Atelie
Photograph courtesy Dawson Cole Fine Art

The galleries in Carmel honor the legacy of creators like Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Morley Baer. Heavy photographic hitters like Adams and Weston, in fact, are represented at the 42-year-old Weston Gallery, where the 100 or so masters on display also include Imogen Cunningham and Wynn Bullock, and at Photography West Gallery, which has rooms dedicated to Adams and Brett Weston, Edward's son.

Other titans work in sculpture, including Richard MacDonald of Dawson Cole Fine Art ( whose strikingly kinetic masterpieces include a 26-foot-tall bronze of a gymnast for the Atlanta Olympics. The gallery, established in 1993, also showcases drawings, prints, and unique works on paper by American and European masters.

The Carmel Art Association claims history that stretches back to 1927, and more than 100 members help decorate its beautiful gallery with thought-provoking pieces. Other galleries further widen the scope of the village's artistry, from The Art of Dr. Seuss to Wyland Gallery's dramatic underwater seascapes to Winfield Gallery's intense abstracts.

While Carmel is the heart of local art, its edges lie further afield in funkier places like Seaside (with the often politically charged art of The Press Club), Carmel Valley (note the urban-styled Valley Greens Gallery), Big Sur (the Hawthorne Gallery is a must-see) and little Sand City, where artists live and work.

Mr. Edgy himself, Salvador Dalí, has a relatively new — and expansive — home in the soaring two-story gallery Dali17 on Custom House Plaza, steps from Fisherman's Wharf in downtown Monterey.

Across downtown, the Monterey Museum of Art remains the area's keystone art destination, with rotating exhibitions of historic, contemporary, and international work, plus a permanent collection of California and Central Coast photographs, paintings, and folk art. Its second La Mirada location deepens the possibilities with angular architecture and woodsy surroundings.

A final required viewing for its sheer depth and diversity reveals itself just one town over in the Pacific Grove Art Center, which is more like four galleries in one, with everything from sculpture to ceramics to photography.

Monterey Bay Fine Arts

Temple Sisters, Jeanne on the Lawn, mixed media on canvas, 48x48 in.
Photograph courtesy Green Chalk Contemporary


Champions of the Arts Annual Gala
Feb. 3, 2018
It's all about the love for art and the creative souls who give birth to it.

Wine, Art and Music Walk
Bimonthly on select Fridays
Pacific Grove's charming downtown arena is the setting where the dozen or so galleries open their doors to all. Plus: some wonderful live music.

Carmel Art Walk
Second Saturday of the month (5-8 p.m.)
Stroll and meet local artists, or tour 21 artist-owned galleries.

Monterey Bay Fine Arts

E. Charlton Fortune (1885–1969), Pilchard Boats, circa 1922–1923, oil on canvas, 12x16 in. Collection Monterey Museum of Art, gift of Monsignor Robert E. Brennan, 1985.041.
Photograph courtesy Monterey Museum of Art