Culture Spotlight: Exclusive Collections Gallery
Posted on December 12, 2018
Ruth-Ann Thorn got her feet wet in the art collecting world while working in a gallery in Hawaii. When she moved back to the mainland in 1995, she saw a window for opportunity to start her own gallery, though success was not immediate. “I decided to take a leap of faith,” she explains. “That was tricky because I wasn’t able to secure financing. I had to bootstrap the whole operation.” Thorn worked out of her own house for years, cultivating a clientele that would follow her wherever she could set up shop. “I did a lot of shows out of hotels. I would load up a van full of art and set up in a meeting space and invite my collectors. I did that for years,” she says.
Hard work paid off and Thorn, along wither her mother (artist Gloria Lee) opened the first Exclusive Collections Gallery on the corner of Girard and Prospect in La Jolla in 1998. Other locations soon followed, including in Seaport Village and Fashion Valley Mall. Success, explains Thorn, had much to do with how she chose artists.
“I’m looking for not just talent but signature style,” she says. “Like music, their voice has to be different from every other voice. We already have a Stevie Nicks. I want somebody who’s not gonna be like anyone else, who is bringing their soul to the table. You look at the art and think, ‘this person shows something different.’”
Today, Thorn receives eight to ten submissions a week, but will accept, at most, one new artist a year. This keeps the art in the gallery exclusive, a visual feast for the eyes. “There are lots of nooks and crannies here and my idea is that everywhere you turn, you’re completely blown away by the artist. Even if it’s not what you’d personally collect, you see how gifted they are,” she says.
With Seaport Village closing down for renovations, Thorn recently opened a new Exclusive Collections Gallery in North County, where she says most of her collectors live. She also calls the area home. “I’m originally from North County, I went to Vista High School, and I’m a member of the Indian Reservation at Rincon in Valley Center, so Cedros came to mind right away. It’s not corporate America, it’s a community feeling,” she says.
To celebrate the new location in the Cedros Design District, Thorn is showcasing the Art of Dr. Seuss throughout December. The show, Merry Grinchmas, includes early line drawings and renderings of the Grinch, as well as exclusive paintings from Seuss’ personal collection that are now being offered as prints for the first time.
“What’s great about this show is that these are paintings that he did for his own pleasure,” says Thorn. “He never sold any, and now his widow has allowed those works to be made into limited editions for our collectors.” The exhibit will run until December 31, followed by an exhibit featuring internationally acclaimed San Diego artist Michael Flohr. 800.599.7111, ecgallery.com Ryan Thomas