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As the weather warms up in New York, I enjoy taking walks with my wife in downtown Manhattan and ducking into whatever art gallery presents an open door—not knowing what to expect and often ending up happily intrigued. But yesterday we made a beeline for Arcadia Contemporary because an artist I follow on Instagram, Matthew Cornell, mentioned that some of his works would be on display there. It was love at first sight! Not only did I get to experience Cornell’s beautifully rendered paintings live and up close for the first time, but I also came upon pieces from two more of my favorite artists, Malcolm Liepke and Casey Childs, and saw so many other impressive creations.

Naturally, I had to pick the brain of the gallery’s owner to find out more about his philosophy for choosing art. His mission is to exhibit highly skilled, representational artists with unique takes on the contemporary world. Like me, he gravitates toward art centered on the human form that tells a story, rather than abstract pieces that are mainly decorative.  Alex Russell Flint’s The Burial provided a particularly compelling example of storytelling panache. In this painting, which evokes Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World and feels like a scene plucked from a movie, a lot is left to the viewer’s imagination, such as what or whom the woman is burying and why.

Another artist who inspired my admiration was Annie-Murphy Robinson. The two charcoal drawings of her daughters on display clearly required tremendous skill. And the gallery’s featured artist, Mary Jane Ansell, also broadcasts a rare artistic prowess. I found her painting entitled Asterales—which I’ve since learned refers to the flower its subject is holding—to be particularly compelling. The depth and serenity of the subject’s gaze and the richness of her wavy red hair reminded me of da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (which was famously sold for a record-breaking $450M in 2017 and afterwards had its authenticity and progeny called into question).

The next exhibition at Arcadia, Scene/Unseen by Renato Muccillo, runs from April 24 through May 16, and I intend to check it out. I wasn’t familiar with this artist’s portfolio, but I know I’m going to like it because of the gallery owner’s great taste. He recently returned to SoHo after a 5-year stint in Southern California, and I’m so glad he decided to come back!