A Visual Rolodex in Rand Tower

Gallery director James K. Rutherford standing before Beson's "Red on Red Crime"

By Gregory J. Scott—Monday, May 24, 2010
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A PR champ’s epic networking gives birth to a new Downtown gallery

At Downtown’s newest gallery, the walls may be crammed with art, but the air is thick with stories.

Director James K. Rutherford could rattle off hundreds of them. See that brooding portrait, the woman’s face emerging from a storm of purple and black drips? Yeah, the guy who painted that was a contemporary of Pollock and de Kooning. And he once saved Jackie Kennedy from the Pamplona paparazzi during the Running of the Bulls. Those acrylic abstractions, with their kinetic tumult of brush strokes? That artist spent 104 hours locked in a glass room in the Minneapolis skyways as part of a live painting stunt. Oh, and those oil-slick landscapes, all blurry and iridescent? Those are from the original gay guy from the first season of MTV’s Real World.

The Kirkland Gallery, which opened May 20 on the ground floor of Rand Tower, is sort of like a visual Rolodex for Rutherford, an epic schmoozer who spent years bouncing between Minneapolis and Los Angeles as a networking dynamo for Brosseau PR. He boasts an insane number of connections, from rock-star jewelry makers to pro football players. And now that he’s settled in Minneapolis, he wants to funnel these connections into the local scene, making the Twin Cities a powerful node in his nationwide constellation of clout.

“My goal,” Rutherford says, “is to connect and be connected to as many good things in Minneapolis and St. Paul as possible.”

For Kirkland Gallery’s inaugural show, that means artist Drew Beson, the mid-career artist who famously lived in the skyways for five days in 2008. It also means Metro Magazine’s “Mom Culture” blogger Lenore Moritz, who helped Rutherford select a handful of paintings made by local toddlers.

But the star of the show is 85-year-old Gino Hollander, an internationally celebrated artist who’s been collected by the likes of Steve McQueen, Ralph Lauren and Norman Rockwell. Hollander’s the guy who saved Mrs. Kennedy in Spain — but that’s just one of thousands of stories from a painter who served in World War II; came of age on New York’s Bleeker Street, rubbing elbows with the pioneers of abstract expressionism; and operated a museum in Spain.

“Gino Hollander is the reason I decided to open Kirkland Gallery,” Rutherford says. The two met a few years ago while Rutherford was scouting visual talent for a PR project, and they’ve been close ever since. Hollander’s goth-sexy portraits of smudged eyed women have been attracting passers-by on the street, Rutherford says.

Hollander’s daughter Siri also contributes a few sculptures, interpretations of horses in mixed media and bronze.

And Norman Korpi, from MTV’s first season of the Real World, shows bleary and romantically dark paintings of sunsets. Before his television fame in the early 1990s, Korpi built a name as a public art prodigy, launching a mural painting company while still a teen in Williamston, Mich. He has since worked in clothing design, advertising and filmmaking. Rutherford got connected to him through his work placing locals in L.A.-based television projects.

Kirkland Gallery

527 Marquette Ave.
Hours: Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.