Founded in 1960, the Miller Gallery is Cincinnati’s oldest art gallery. It began as a way to bring a love of art to the community. Laura Miller Gleason remembers, "My mom started the gallery when I was going off to kindergarten, and my father joined the gallery when I was nine. It's always been a part of my life. I remember going to the galley after school to do homework and when I learned how to cook, I took on managing the house. The gallery is located in an historic little shopping district, and I would run errands to the butcher, to the Japanese fruit market, to get all the things we'd need. I can still remember sitting at the dinner table at night saying, 'Can we talk about something else besides the gallery?' (Laughs).

"We always had artists coming through and staying with us randomly. Our vacations would involve visiting artist studios. My friends would come over and they'd always be so excited about it. I can remember thinking, 'Doesn't everybody had odd people coming through unannounced and staying at their house?'"

The Miller Gallery started out small, in a basement, and over the years it progressed; to stay in business selling art is a challenge those in the industry know all too well.When Mrs. Gleason’s parents became ill in 2000, she and her husband Gary Gleason began to assist them. They have since become sole proprietor’s of the gallery, and have expanded into other areas of art, taking on photographers and painters in addition to the Miller Gallery tradition of three-dimensional works. 

Mrs. Gleason observes, "My parents did a fabulous job with the gallery. For a long time there were only two galleries in Cincinnati, and theirs was one of the two. But over the years Cincinnati has evolved. Now there are over one hundred galleries, artist's studio, community groups. It's a different situation than it used to be. There is so much art available to people. We try to curate for our city, our clients, and visitors."

And to that end, the Miller Gallery has positioned itself to present the work of living artists. On the occasion of the opening of “The Exotic World of Hunt Slonem” with an artist talk and book signing on Thursday, May 29, and the opening reception on Friday, May 30, Gary Gleason graciously agreed to speak with The Click about the Miller Gallery in the new millennium.

Gleason notes, “After joining the gallery, I soon discovered I loved working with living artists. The artists’ mind is really different; I come from a business background. The interaction I have with artists is to convey business ideas: how to proceed, to sell their works, to mentor them on the business angle as much as I can.

“There are a few artists, like Hunt, who can make a good living at it. It is a struggle for so many artists who don’t get the recognition they deserve. This is where we feel we come in. I have a natural curiosity about how they live and survive. I examine what makes one artist successful: what did they do that works? The art world doesn’t fit business models like other industries do.

“We have a very eclectic gallery. It works well for us. Our process for choosing artists is rather interesting. When I came to the gallery, I started doing it on a business basis. We represent 60 artists. We won’t put a new artist on until we let another go. We have a group of six people that meets four times a year. Everyone brings in artists they like and admire, and we get over a thousand submissions a year. We go through all of these, and what happens is, the top 20 artists in sales automatically stay on because we exist on sales. The other selections are about what they bring and how they fit into our group. The different tastes of the six people involved are insanely good. We are really proud of our artists.

“A lot of galleries have their niche and you can do that in New York and Los Angeles but here our clients have a broad range. Cincinnati is a really surprising town. It’s a fantastic community. There is a tremendous focus on the arts, with a lot of great arts organizations and a lot of artists living here. It’s a small city with a nice size market. Our clients have a wide range of quality aesthetics.

“When Marta Hallett called and said she was doing Bunnies, I was intrigued. I knew Hunt’s work and had always been an admirer; he’s really good at what he does. I find that the paintings we have here, there is a real tropical feel. Hunt creates a feeling and environment that people find thrilling. The thing I admire about Hunt and his career is that he has gained a reputation and acceptance among major galleries and collectors all over the world.

“I had seen a couple of the works in person in galleries and noticed they didn’t come across that well online or in books, because Hunt uses so much paint and texture that gets lost in the reproduction. Marta sent a copy of Bunnies and I was floored by that book, I can’t get over it. The reproduction quality is that good.

“When you think of a book, especially a book as large as that, with nothing but bunnies…the combination of design, and the quality of production is phenomenal. I can’t believe Hunt can paint that many bunnies in the first place, but to make each one individual and engaging; everyone is amazed by it.

“The book couldn’t help us more. The paintings we sell are not inexpensive. If people come in and see the work in situated in a larger context of work and read about the artist, they are likely to buy the book if they can’t afford the work. The book helps us as a selling tool, but it is also a work of art itself. It is so well made, people often pull up a chair and spend plenty of time with the books.”

Story by the Miller Gallery
Curated by Miss Rosen