By Léo Azambuja
Born out of an urge to provide a space for no-boundaries, high-quality artwork — detached from a commercial driving force — Galerie 103 first opened its doors in the summer of 2009.
“For me, it’s about the art,” said gallery owner and artist Bruna Stude.
In the course of the next five years, Galerie 103 at The Shops at Kukui‘uila has earned a reputation of being one of the forerunners of contemporary art galleries in the entire state of Hawai‘i — and its fame has already reached Mainland and European markets.
“I thought this island had a lot of talent, and we had no place to exhibit,” said Bruna, one of many artists on Kaua‘i waiting for an art center to open “soon,” a term that could mean just the opposite.
Most galleries on Kaua‘i do not offer an exhibition program; they mainly have art for sale. There is the Kaua‘i Society of Artists, with an exhibit space at Kukui Grove Center, and that was pretty much it for Kaua‘i before Galerie 103.
“For me the exhibition space is the driving force, and the commercial aspects of it are to support the exhibition program,” said Bruna, explaining how she runs her gallery.
Since the beginning, she has promoted what she calls “quality work,” without discriminating — the artists she represents can be from anywhere in the world. But she does represent several local artists.
“I really put a lot of weight on showing, promoting and nurturing artists, and creating exhibitions and hopefully promoting artists’ careers through that process, not only having art as a commodity for sale,” Bruna said.
Despite being a contemporary art gallery first and foremost, Galerie 103 also promotes educational art programs, such as wood-carving lectures, fashion shows and the increasingly popular International Filmmakers of Kaua‘i film festival, known by the provocative acronym IFOK.
An artist and an art collector herself, Bruna is originally from the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. Growing up, art was an integral part of her life. Her grandfather was an artist, her sister was a classical ballerina and her mother incorporated art into everything they did.
“Everything we did in our home was art-infused, from the way how we set the table to making art,” she said. “(Art) was always part of my life as long as I know I’m alive.”
Immediately after graduating from law school, Bruna left Croatia to travel the world and pursue her love for art.
In the last five years, her main medium has been photography. She taught herself printmaking, and then reinvented the process by using an archaic platinum palladium method as an attempt to convey her concept, thus creating a print that has a “different feel.”
One of Galerie 103’s main artists is Tom Lieber, a former Kaua‘i resident whose work has been shown all over Europe and the Mainland, and has been acquired by more than two dozen museum collections, including the Guggenheim Museum of Art in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.
The gallery also represents an impressive roster of Kaua‘i artists, such as Sally French, Carol Bennett, A. Kimberly Blackburn, Deyanna Mielke and Wayne Zebzda, among many others.
Surprisingly for Bruna, the gallery often attracts children. She said they come first, and then bring their parents.
“I think that’s one of the roles I did not anticipate; how important it would be for children growing up on the island to be able to be exposed to contemporary works which are not created commercially,” Bruna said.
The gallery is currently holding a show by father-and-daughter duo Charles and Natalie Arnoldi, who have exhibited together for four years in New York and Los Angeles, and have a family home on Kaua‘i since 1992.
Charles and Natalie shared a studio for a month, and painted together especially for this show at Galerie 103, which will be up until Jan. 31.
Galerie 103 is at The Shops at Kukui‘ula at 2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka in Po‘ipu. They are open Tuesday through Saturday, from noon to 8 p.m., and can be reached at 742-0103.
Visit www.galerie103.com for more information.