You may not suspect that Gamil Awad and Everett White are international art dealers upon first glance. They dress a bit like laid-back frat boys who enjoy shooting the shit on their cigarette breaks. Yet they have all the knowledge of art snobs without the snobbery.
In their little art gallery down on Sullivan's Island, pieces by Andy Warhol and "rediscovered master" Don ZanFagna will finally be hung side by side in what Awad calls "a clash of the titans."
The White Gallery is gearing up for Contemporary Masters, their biggest show to date, showcasing works by Warhol, ZanFagna, Robert Motherwell, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, Tim Hussey, and others. "Charleston's never seen anything like this," says Awad, who owns the gallery with his partner White. White opened the space two years ago and brought Awad on as a partner last November. Prior to that, the gallery sold jewelry and typical Lowcountry paintings. "I said, 'Everett, we're either an art gallery or a gift shop,'" Awad says, and the two went to work transforming the gallery. "We became art dealers overnight."
ZanFagna is an artist Awad and White are particularly excited about, as his contribution will enable people to see the work of different artists from the same time period. ZanFagna and Warhol were well acquainted, but ZanFagna was a family man who didn't spend much time with Warhol and his gang of party people. "ZanFagna couldn't stand Warhol. I don't think you could publish what he's said," notes White. "This house is almost too small for their egos if they showed up in person."
Despite their insistence on ditching those pictures of palm trees and bringing in artists from all over the world, Awad and White certainly appreciate local art. "One of the things we want to offer is work outside of the norm, things you wouldn't expect to find in Charleston," White says. Awad quickly adds, "We're not trying to push away from the art that already exists in Charleston. We're trying to influence and complement it."
Awad and White both have pieces of their own displayed in the airy, beachside gallery. Awad's current series of photos, titled Body-Scapes, are close-ups of the body with a focus on texture in natural light, and he will have a new series on display for the show. White has various paintings and sketches in the gallery. This speaks to their desire to house not only established artists, but up-and-comers as well. "Our biggest vision is to have art available that you cannot find without going to one of these larger cities. Really, art is to be shared," Awad says. "Rather than going to New York or Miami to get your Andy Warhol or your Keith Haring or Robert Motherwell, you can actually get it here in Charleston." Adds White, "We have artists that are dealing with the past, present, and future. But we have things to match couches as well."
Awad and White promise a famous guest appearance at the opening and another possible "surprise" during Spoleto. There will be drinks at the opening party, but don't expect any food. Says White, "Sometimes people just fucking hang around and eat cheese all night."