March 1, 2019

From elevator music to all beige everything, it seems that far too often the things meant to universally please do just the opposite. Mastering universally pleasing art is particularly vexing. On one hand, we want scenes that exude well-being—sunsets, beaches, sunsets on the beach—but on the other hand, these subjects are so culturally ubiquitous that photographs of them are often posted to Instagram with the sole caption Sorry. Thankfully, there are those like Sandra Pelletier, owner of Sorelle Gallery, who have an eye for procuring art that feels soothing, but not soulless. “The secret is selecting art that moves us,” says Pelletier, who employs a team of all women at her New Canaan, Connecticut shop. Ahead, Pelletier shares how she got started in the business and her best tips for picking art that you (and, yes, everyone you know) will love.

Sorelle Gallery Director Miranda Girard (left) and Sorelle Art Advisor and Marketing Coordinator Caitlin Brennan (right).

Can you tell us a bit about how you got started in the antiques business?Sorelle Gallery offers a diverse collection of original paintings, limited edition photography, and sculpture. We focus on art that incites warm feelings, happy memories, and relaxation. Generally-speaking, our clients seek to make their environments a personal, self-expressive oasis; a retreat after a long day, a productive workspace, or an inviting place to host family and friends.

Tell us about how Sorelle Gallery was founded and how the name Sorelle—which translates to “sisters” in Italian—came about.
Art is my first love and I graduated with an art degree, so after a career in the business and tech industry, it was natural for me to return to the art world. I wanted to create a space where people could come and see exceptional artwork and design from artists throughout the U.S. and beyond. Since we are a group of talented, hard-working, and design-savvy women, when it came time to decide on a name, I asked my Italian mom to give us her thoughts. At first she offered up “Strega,” which means witch. She insisted we had “good magic,” but I explained we would probably scare people away. I asked her for Italian words meaning “sisters” or “girlfriends” and Sorelle was the winner!

Photo by Jane Beiles, Artists featured: Rob Lorenson, Sheryl Daane-Chesnut and Julia Contacessi

Sorelle Gallery takes a unique technology-based approach to the art selection process. Was this a conscious decision inspired by your business and tech background?
I knew that technology would be a disrupter of traditional in-store purchases; we needed to be technology-forward. Today, clients can shop from anywhere in the world. Our website is visually beautiful and easy-to-use. It gives the client an opportunity to purchase online and have their purchases shipped anywhere. Working with the understanding that our art is best enjoyed in person, virtual clients have three days to live with the art in their home and make their purchase final. We have accurate images of the artwork online, and therefore, we rarely get returns.

Also, with our free art advisory service, a client can email us an image of the space and we digitally impose suggestions on their wall. It’s a great way to see different works in the same space quickly. We can also email or text the client a video of the painting, which is especially helpful if there’s a metallic area or interesting texture that’s hard to see in photos. Local clients can live with the paintings to see them in different light and then we come back and install.

Photo by Jane Beiles, Artists featuredL Ryn Del Mar, Rob Lorenson

Is there a secret to selecting universally pleasing art, but not “boring” art?
Art-making and art collecting are about love and passion. As a gallery owner with an art-obsessed team, the secret is selecting art that moves us. It’s art that when we see it, we all collectively say “Wow.” Then we talk about the “Wow.” What caused it? Technique? Subject? Memory association? Palette? Is the feeling positive, lasting, and inspiring? Could we live happily in a room adorned with this art?

Should clients ever fear art becoming dated?
Similar to clothing fashion, there are classic interpretations that endure decades and then there are “fads.” If you’re wearing a fad just because it’s hot right now, chances are you’ll get rid of it or regret it when it’s out of fashion. Look for the little black dress  version of art… choose art you feel great about; art that excites you. When it comes to framing, simple is best. Choose a frame that allows the artwork to be the star of the show.

Photo by Jane Beiles, Artists featured: Ned Martin and Alina B.

Do you have any advice for clients trying to decide between abstract and realism?
At Sorelle, we love pairing different styles. Mix it up with confidence! For clients who are thinking of adding some representational artwork to their abstract collection, or are swaying towards contemporary and are thinking of purchasing an abstract painting for the first time, “transitional” art is always an option. It’s a go-between; a perfect blend of abstract and traditional. Our artists Elwood Howell and Amy Donaldson are great examples.

Having moved Sorelle Gallery from upper New York to Connecticut, what role does regionality play in the art selection process?
I can say firsthand that region does impact what you sell, certainly when it comes to local sales. There were some growing pains when I moved the gallery to southern Connecticut. We parted ways with longtime successful artists that had done very well in Albany, but did not have a strong market in the new region.

Photo by Jane Beiles, Artists featured: Elwood Howell and Kimerlee Curyl

Are there any trends that you’re currently seeing in art?
Blue and white are top colors for us for a couple of reasons. I think it’s our proximity to the coast and the fact many of our clients have homes on the water, either here in Connecticut, or in Florida, Cape Cod, etc. Water themes have majestic, organic, calming qualities that work well with coastal designs and palettes. Oil painter, Antonia Tyz Peeples depicts water up-close in beautiful detail on fine linen. Teodora Guererra is celebrated for expressive splashes of blue in her large abstracts. Also, modern-era painter and sculptor, Stanley Bate (1903–1972), is a Sorelle top-seller. His masterful work is authentic to his time period and in excellent condition. Collectors are thrilled to see his prices appreciate dramatically.

Photo by Jane Beiles, Artist featured: Dolores Tema

Any favorite projects that you’ve worked on lately?
There are so many, but as of recent I have two. One project is easy to see! We are part of a 20-page spread in the January/ February issue of AtHome magazine, called Open Minded with Mark P. Finlay Interiors and Fletcher Development LLC. We had the pleasure of working with the homeowners for a couple years, gradually placing art, watching their art collection expand and develop. At the start, they were new to art and stuck to a winter palette, transitional art only. Now their collection is as diverse as their world travels! Loaded with powerful color and texture, as well tender nuance. Photography, paintings, sculpture… all beautifully placed… and loved.

The second is a project we just completed in Bedford, New York. We are planning on publishing this project as well, as we just had it photographed by Landino Photo and in partnership with designer/architect Carol Kurth!

Lead photo by Neil Landino, image featured by Marta Spendowska