Après-ski with art in Breckenridge, CO
By Chadd Scott
Exterior of Portfolio Gallery in Breckenridge, CO | Photo by Chadd Scott
The Breckenridge, CO gallery scene has yet to recover from the closure of Breckenridge Fine Art in 2016. Owner Jim Tylich had galleries throughout the mountain towns across the West for decades before consolidating the business into a non-descript industrial plaza in Edwards, CO serving mostly existing collectors on an appointment basis.
Breckenridge Fine Art gallery was the spark which lit my passion for art. Immediately upon entering, despite having zero background in art, I knew something was different. The paintings better, somehow – that was obvious – although I didn’t have the language or experience to explain how or why.
A great gallery is more than a storehouse for great artworks. The gallerist is equally important.
At Breckenridge Fine Art, long-time gallerist Gretchen Greene would spend hours and hours and hours teaching me art appreciation. Explaining to me how to “look.” Detailing the stories of the artists and the artworks and art movements and painting techniques.
She is more individually responsible for my interest in art, what has now become my career, than anyone else. She let me dig through the racks unimpeded; pull out paintings, stack them up against the wall, ask her about them, follow up over email with subsequent questions, express my curiosity.
She cared for me and my interest in art years before I began buying artwork from her.
It is said when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. That was the case for me and Greene.
Breckenridge Fine Art specialized in Russian Impressionism. Tylich began traveling to the former Soviet Union as the Iron Curtain was coming down. Through an ever-expanding network of contacts, he met more and more painters who had worked for the state under the socialist system. They were required to paint one picture a month for government, but painters being painters, they produced a vast amount of other pieces which never saw the light of day.
That being Soviet Russia, there was no market for artwork, so the masterpieces languished. They were stacked in attics and cellars, unseen, unacknowledged. The Soviet art academy system produced generations of brilliant painters, rigorously trained, highly skilled, inherently talented, then asked for one painting a month and forced them to sit on the rest.
Some were able to leave and show their work to the world. Many more were not.
Tylich found these artists, bought their artworks and brought them to the U.S.
Fedor Zakharov. Vassily Kossenkov. Alexander Kolotilov.
Expressive, earthy, technical paintings glorifying the Russian landscape, soil and people.
But the gallery is no more. Even the commercial space has closed.
Breckenridge Fine Art was a god among mortals. Candidly, the Breck gallery scene was only decent with it. Without it, well, there are many wonderful reasons to visit Breckenridge, gallery hopping is not one of them. It doesn’t compare to Jackson Hole or Vail or Whitefish, MT.
Art lovers are going to love art, however, so, in Breckenridge, duck your head in these galleries après ski. All are located along Main Street in the touristy area with the restaurants and shops.
Raitman Art Galleries operates two spaces in town, the larger occupying the primo former Breckenridge Fine Art space at the intersection of North Main Street and North French Street.
I was excited to see the gallery add Greg Deal to the roster. Deal gave a spoken word performance in Breckenridge in 2022 to accompany a small presentation of his artwork and it was obviously well received. His paintings use Indigenous symbology, graphic arts and punk rock spirit to call attention to ongoing colonial abuses and envision Indigenous futures.
Unfortunately, the gallery no longer carries Tracey Felix’ fluffy mountain landscapes.
Robert Moore’s vibrant, “linear impressionism” landscapes are a fixture at Western galleries. His warm, soft, palette knife paintings cheerfully depict the idealized natural scenes millions of visitors head west and into the mountains for.
Jeremy Bradshaw’s wildlife sculptures additionally stand out.
Prices are nowhere near what you’d find in Aspen or Vail with premiere pieces beginning in the couple thousand-dollar range depending on artist and size.
Gary Soles Gallery
Photographer Gary Soles’ spectacular, large-scale – make that enormous scale – landscape pictures fill his gallery. Some stretch a full 8-feet wide. He captures dramatic images of Breckenridge as well as other iconic places around the West and wildlife.
Looking for a statement piece to hang above the fireplace or in the entry way of your mountain home that’s sure to drop the jaws of dinner guests, go here.
His monumental photographs run into the several thousand-dollar price range, mounted to metal or canvas, framed or unframed, but he also offers smaller prints perfect for modest, but memorable gifts or souvenirs.
Perry Brown landscape painting at Breckenridge Gallery | Photo by Chadd Scott
Now the monarch of Breck art galleries, Breckenridge Gallery specializes in exactly the sort of Western landscape paintings and wildlife sculptures you expect to find in the mountain towns.
Mick Shimonek’s landscapes are produced with soft blocks of color, sparse on detail, but with an abundance of feeling. He’s especially deft with his yellows and greens. Kate Kiesler’s impressionist landscapes deserve a close look, and Perry Brown’s.
Leon Loughridge’s woodcuts are in the spirit of Gustave Bauman and capture their scenes in the way only someone who knows them well can.
While I do like the art at Portfolio Gallery, I’m most intrigued by the business model. Purposefully and ingeniously designed to welcome entry level collectors by taking the mystery and confusion out of the “retail” side of buying art, paintings at Portfolio Gallery are all priced the same: by size. Each of the dozen or so artists represented – all Colorado artists – are priced the same.
Portfolio Gallery sells four sizes of artworks – 16-inches by 16-inches for $549, 14x14 for $449, 12x12 for $349 and 10x10 for $149. Everything for sale, all the pieces, regardless of artist, are priced the same according to dimensions.
Pardon the oversimplification, but it makes buying artwork more like ordering single topping pizzas. Whether you want peperoni, sausage, or mushrooms, the price is determined by size – 16-inch, 12-inch or personal size – not a series of opaque factors foreign to beginning collectors – or, simply, browsing tourists.
I love how approachable this makes the art buying process which, for many, proves intimidating to the point of turn off. Portfolio Gallery stocks a standardized suite of sizes from each artist – all originals – matted, but not framed, although framing is offered on site.
Landscapes and wildlife dominate here, as well, with smaller pieces perfect for gifts and impulse purchases.
This model isn’t appropriate for most galleries or most artists, but it works wonderfully at Portfolio.
An exception to the standardized sizing and pricing model is Katie Maher’s fragmented wildlife portraits. Fresh, spirited, energetic, Maher’s paintings adoringly capture the beauty of the animals she paints.
Shopping at Portfolio Gallery in Breckenridge, CO | Photo by Chadd Scott