CLEO The Gallery in Savannah, Georgia

By December 04, 2023
Installation View of Strawberry, Plum, Lemon-Lime, featuring the work of Joshua Edward Bennett, on view from August 12-September 23, 2023. Photograph by Jasmine Hsu and courtesy of CLEO The Gallery, Savannah, Georgia.

Location/Address: 915 B Montgomery Street, Savannah, Georgia 31401 
Hours: Wednesday to Sunday from 1pm-6pm, by appointment 
Website: https://www.cleothegallery.com/ 
Founded by: Jeanette McCune 
Operated by: Jeanette McCune (Director) and Elizabeth Sloas (Gallery Assistant) 
Opened: 2020 
Most Recent Exhibitions: Crisp Kitsch, on view until December 10, 2023, with work by Sara French, Theo  Skeete, Ben Tollefson, Angelica Lorenzi, and Neal Hollinger / NADA Miami 2023 with work by Emily Llamazales* and Sam Newton, running from December 5-9, 2023. 

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Jeanette McCune: I get this question all the time and honestly the answer always changes. Though at the root of it, I’ve always liked the name and being able to humanize the work that I do at the gallery. It is a complete extension of self so whenever someone calls me Cleo I answer regardless. 

JM: I’ve always wanted the Cleo model to join in the larger call for transparency that has gained so much traction in every industry over the last decade. We live in a time where proper compensation of labor is considered a privilege rather than a necessity. The arts generate so much for the economy and yet the majority of people in this industry never seem to see exactly what they are due. We love W.A.G.E. and have been using their budget calculator to make sure our next round of shows are financially in line with our values, it’s definitely been a great resource. Cleo’s total expense is tiny compared to the larger scope of galleries and institutions in the art world but we just want to make sure we are doing our best with what we have to propel the conversation of proper resource allocation. The response to our mission so far has been mostly positive. There are many people who have remained critical of our model’s ability to  survive, including some artists who have worked in the industry, and they have every right. The truth is it takes an incredible amount of energy and time to produce even the little success we have seen, but I am wildly stubborn and poised to make this model sustainable. I am hoping eventually we can produce a roadmap for other small project spaces to work smarter from our mistakes as well as wins.

Emily Llamazales, The New Flesh, 2023, glazed stoneware, shells, acorn nuts, glass bead gel, 18 1/2 x 15 x 3 inches. On view at NADA Miami 2023. Photograph by Emily Llamazales and courtesy of CLEO The Gallery, Savannah Georgia.
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JM: My love of art books all started when I was working as a book binder for Anteism in Montreal. It is a small studio and publisher that is incredibly considerate of the craft and takes so much care in picking its catalog. Through their experience I was exposed to so many artists and titles that I gained a deep respect and appreciation for. From then on I formed an opinion of my own taste and later a small personal collection. Cleo has been a way to share that collection with the arts community of Savannah and expose others to artists who use print as an extension of their own bodies of work: artists who aren’t necessarily available to do shows at Cleo but are offering an intro to their work through a more accessible medium.

JM: We are becoming a non-profit project space in January 2024. It is such a big game changer in terms of what we will be able to show and the events we will be able to put on. Cleo will continue the mission of showcasing emerging artists and offering financial support for exhibiting but this transition will lead the way for even more experimentation without the constraints of an art market dictating rosters, mediums, and themes. This past year we have implemented weekly artist talks with local makers and those have been received extremely well. Hopefully through fundraising initiatives we will be able to offer those events ticketed according to sliding scale or donation in 2024. I am also aiming to host more Cleo dinners which include collectors, artists, industry professionals, and friends coming together to casually discuss the work on view while enjoying food made by local Savannah chefs. Caitlin McDonagh will be starting 2024 off with a custom mural in our space as she completes the first ever collaborative effort between Cleo the Gallery and Sulfur Studios to host an artist in residence at their space and a final exhibition at ours. Stay tuned!

Installation View of Crisp Kitsch, featuring the work of Neal Hollinger, Theo Skeete, Ben Tollefson, Angelica Lorenzi, and Sara French on view until December 10, 2023. Photograph by Jasmine Hsu and courtesy of CLEO The Gallery, Savannah, Georgia.
Joshua Edward Bennett, You know, I never really considered that perspective on the complex history of German dog breeding. But when you put it that way, I understand the appeal of the Doberman Pinscher, among others, 2023, old-growth oak, high-density urethane, pine dowel, coated chain, cup hook, latex paint, gypsum paint texture, vinyl mesh, upholstery tacks, 27 x 16 x 2 1/2 inches. From Strawberry, Plum, Lemon-Lime, featuring the work of Joshua Edward Bennett, on view from August 12-September 23, 2023. Photograph by Jasmine Hsu and courtesy of CLEO The Gallery, Savannah, Georgia.
[From Left to Right] Ben Tollefson, Queen of Hearts II, 2023, oil on canvas, 72 x 48 inches and Queen of Hearts, 2023, oil on canvas, 72 x 48 inches. From Crisp Kitsch, featuring the work of Neal Hollinger, Theo Skeete, Ben Tollefson, Angelica Lorenzi, and Sara French on view until December 10, 2023. Photograph by Jasmine Hsu and courtesy of CLEO The Gallery, Savannah, Georgia.

*Emily Llamazales was the former Development and Program Coordinator at Burnaway from 2019-2023. Editorial decisions on coverage were made independently.


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