Bourbon Street serves an important function. Bourbon Street beckons the cheap, the tawdry, the trashy. Beads and boobs. Voluminous, sugary alcohol served around-the-clock to those looking to consume in access.
It’s where crazy people go to get crazy.
Drinking until you puke is frowned upon everywhere else in America. On Bourbon Street, it’s ok. There are people attracted to that unique quality about the place.
I have never been one of those people.
Still, because it is unique, because it has every bit the cultural relevance of Times Square or the Las Vegas Strip, everyone should take a walk up and down Bourbon Street at least once.
And then never return.
When visiting New Orleans, embrace Royal Street with its first-class art and antique galleries, not Bourbon Street and its low-class bars and clubs.
On a recent trip to New Orleans, Kristi and I spent several hours a day, several days in a row, browsing the galleries of Royal Street. Here were our favorites, although far from a comprehensive list:
Martin Lawrence Galleries
You’ll find the heavy-hitters of 20th Century art on the walls of the Marin Lawrence Galleries. Lithographs, prints, aquatints, linocuts and more from Picasso, Dali and Chagall.
What most caught our eye were the Impressionist-inspired paintings of Kerry Hallam. Hallam’s bright, lively, landscape and seascapes of the French Riveria are right in our wheelhouse.
What Maison Royale lacked in quantity – there were no more than 30 pictures on display in the gallery which also offers a fine jewelry selection – it more than made up for in quality.
Yolande Ardissone was responsible for the first fine are painting we ever purchased. We adore it to this day. Kristi noticed the Ardissone for sale in Maison Royale at 20 paces. Along with this wonderful, airy, boating scene full of figures where you can feel the French sea breeze was an enormous landscape of hers, perhaps 36×36 or larger, featuring a small town and a poppy field.
Two Italian landscapes – not generally our favorite subject matter – by Ferro Lagree jumped off the wall, as did a landscape from the Russian Impressionist Oleg Ardimasov. Kristi and I rarely disagree when it comes to art, but she greatly preferred the Lagree’s while I was greatly taken with the Ardimasov.
To further demonstrate the high quality of this gallery, it also boasted a Pissarro as well as a captivating Parisian street scene by Edouard Leon Cortes.
Prices at Maison Royale were on the spendy side, but not so steep uniformly as to be totally unapproachable.
The very helpful gallery director on-hand for our visit made us feel welcome without pressuring us to buy anything.
French Art Network
We came for Eric LePape and stayed for Liisa Corbiere.
Contemporary art is NOT our jam, although Jamie Kirkland’s landscapes did interest us. If you’re looking for a large-scale, contemporary piece which makes a statement, this gallery is for you.
Speaking of contemporary art, if you want to explore the truly avant-garde, try Angela King Gallery.
Windsor Fine Art Gallery
You’ll see Picasso, Dali, Chagall, Miro, Toulouse-Lautrec and other household names among art connoisseurs, but it is their Rembrandt and Durer etchings which are truly museum-quality. You must visit simply to admire them.
I’m going to throw you a curveball and tell you it was the sculpture of Paige Bradley we found ourselves unusually attracted to. Her lithe, athletic, sexual, Degas-inspired figures are not to be missed.
What is it about Russians? Drop us in a gallery and chances are we’ll be attracted to the Russians. That was again the case here with Vena Grebenshikov’s work catching our eye.
This gallery features New Orleans artists, including M. Sani – who was manning the store when we stopped by – offered at more reasonable prices than you’ll find on much of Royal Street.
Entry-level prices, local artists, good work if you dig with plenty of “smalls” and works appropriate for gifts.
Contemporary, yes, but not weird contemporary. Artist Fredrick Guess was working in the gallery when we visited which we were happy about. His swampy sunset picture in the link above, second row, third from left, was outstanding.
Finally, no trip to New Orleans – let alone Royal Street – can be considered complete without a stop by the other-worldly fabulous M.S. Rau Antiques, which deserves a blog entry all its own.