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SLO local Julie Torchia curates historic prints and local gems at new Solvang gallery 

click to enlarge COLORFUL CURATION Alongside museum-quality prints by historic artists, Solvang Fine Art also showcases a selection of local contemporary artists as well. Pictured: gallery owner Julie Torchia in front of a display of paintings by Arroyo Grande-based artist Laurel Sherrie.

Photo By Caleb Wiseblood

COLORFUL CURATION Alongside museum-quality prints by historic artists, Solvang Fine Art also showcases a selection of local contemporary artists as well. Pictured: gallery owner Julie Torchia in front of a display of paintings by Arroyo Grande-based artist Laurel Sherrie.

Given the amount of time Julie Torchia spends perusing rare artworks before putting them on the market, it's not hard to believe the bittersweet reaction she described when the right buyer comes along.

One of the local curator's most recent attachments is a Henri Matisse piece, Acrobatic Dancer, which is displayed near the front entrance of Torchia's new gallery in downtown Solvang. Torchia said she feels ready to let the print go, but her hesitant tone suggests otherwise.

"You do get better about letting stuff go the more you do it," said Torchia, who's garnered years of art marketing and curating experience throughout her career.

Although she's worked for various art sellers over the years, Solvang Fine Art—which opened its doors to the public on Oct. 1—marks Torchia's first venture as a gallery owner.

"This is brand new for me. It's exciting, stressful. I'm learning new things," Torchia said. "But you know, it's been a good ride. I haven't had a mental breakdown."

click to enlarge IT'S A WILD WORLD Authenticating Salvador Dalí prints can be rigorous, due to the extensive amount of counterfeits on the market, said Solvang Fine Art owner Julie Torchia. Pictured: Wild Blackberries, available for sale at Torchia's gallery. - COURTESY PHOTO BY JULIE TORCHIA
  • Courtesy Photo By Julie Torchia
  • IT'S A WILD WORLD Authenticating Salvador Dalí prints can be rigorous, due to the extensive amount of counterfeits on the market, said Solvang Fine Art owner Julie Torchia. Pictured: Wild Blackberries, available for sale at Torchia's gallery.

Since the gallery's opening, Torchia has spent her mornings commuting to Solvang six days a week from her home in San Luis Obispo. She described the drive as a breeze though, compared to some of the mile-to-minute ratios she encountered while working for a gallery in Beverly Hills.

But there are still days when Torchia finds herself wishing the gallery's second floor neighbor—one of Solvang's classiest hotels, The Winston—might let her crash for the night.

"Can I just move in here?" Torchia joked, before adding she'll probably move closer to Solvang eventually, preferably to Santa Barbara.

SLO will always remain special to Torchia though, as she was born and raised there. After she turned 18, she moved to the Bay Area to study art at San Francisco State University. Originally aspiring to become an artist herself, Torchia realized she enjoyed courses on art history much more than painting and other art classes.

Torchia's gradual pursuit of a career in curation led to her first gig in the art marketing world, as an intern for Bonhams' office in San Francisco. She later continued her education in New York, where she earned her master's degree in modern and contemporary art history at Hunter College.

click to enlarge RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARCHIVES Local curator Julie Torchia (pictured) specializes in showcasing and selling museum-quality prints by historical artists, including Salvador Dalí. One of her most helpful resources is The Official Catalog of the Graphic Works of Salvador Dalí, by prolific archivist Albert Field. - PHOTO BY CALEB WISEBLOOD
  • Photo By Caleb Wiseblood
  • RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARCHIVES Local curator Julie Torchia (pictured) specializes in showcasing and selling museum-quality prints by historical artists, including Salvador Dalí. One of her most helpful resources is The Official Catalog of the Graphic Works of Salvador Dalí, by prolific archivist Albert Field.

Various career opportunities took Torchia, now 37, to other parts of the country as well where she has helped organize countless exhibitions of historic artworks over the years. Her most recent title before moving back to the Central Coast was curator for Harte International Galleries in Lahaina, Hawaii.

While Torchia's new gallery specializes in museum-quality prints by dearly departed iconic artists, including Rembrandt and Salvador Dalí, Solvang Fine Art showcases a selection of contemporary artists as well.

One of the prerequisites for Central Coast-based painters, such as Arroyo Grande local Laurel Sherrie and Paso Robles local Dennis Curry, to be featured at Solvang Fine Art is that they can't show their works concurrently at any nearby galleries (basically throughout the Santa Ynez Valley).

"I didn't want to show people who are already showing here because I'm just going to end up competing with other galleries, and I don't want to do that," Torchia said.

As for historic artists, Torchia described her process in selecting rare prints as meticulous but something she's extremely comfortable with.

"This has been my wheelhouse," said Torchia, whose gallery office is stocked with resources, including a catalog by prolific archivist Albert Field, best known for authenticating the surreal works of Dalí.

Torchia said approving Dalí prints can be rigorous, due to the extensive amount of counterfeits on the market. She's even had to call out a few sellers over the years for trying to sell her fakes.

"You can't rely on a seller to be honest, especially with Dalí. Before I buy it, I make sure it matches in here," Torchia said, pointing to Field's catalog.

"And after it comes in, I measure the image size, paper size, check the watermark, check the edition number, etc.," she listed. "If it passes all those, you get to put it on the wall. But if anything pops up that's wrong, then, you know, nasty emails go out." Δ

Please send pleasant emails to Calendar Editor Caleb Wiseblood at cwiseblood@newtimesslo.com.

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