Culture- ART FEATURE- Les Yeux nouveaux: Opening eyes on West Main

When it comes to misfortune, some people believe in the "rule of threes": one unexpected death foreshadows two more, and plane crashes always seem to happen in triplicate. Certainly, the rule held true in Charlottesville's art world earlier this year. First, UVA dismissed Jill Hartz as art museum director. Then Second Street Gallery's director, Leah Stoddard, was shown the door.

The third blow came when Les Yeux du Monde gallery had to vacate its downtown location– a visual hotspot for six years– to make way for an upscale baby boutique. Gallery owner Lyn Warren received a one-month reprieve to host James Nachtwey's exhibition during the Festival of the Photograph, but when July arrived, it was out with the art, in with the baby clothes.

Les Yeux du Monde suddenly found itself homeless despite having a full roster of exhibitions slated for the fall. Six weeks later, however, Warren opened the doors to the gallery's new location at 500 W. Main St. "I looked all over downtown," Warren says, noting she considered the Ix and Old Michie Buildings. "Somehow this just jumped at me more." 

She liked the building's floor-to-ceiling windows and its "light, airy feeling." The parking behind the gallery sealed the deal.

After painting the interior and replacing fluorescent fixtures with gallery-appropriate track lighting, Warren opened Les Yeux du Monde's first show in the new space August 15. The usual art-loving suspects had no trouble finding the exhibition featuring work by Dean Dass, Lydia Gasman, Ellen Hathaway, Peyton Hurt, John McCarthy, David Summers, and Russ Warren. 

The new space impressed. "I love it, I love it," gushed featured artist Dass. "I love all the little rooms. It's homey and house-y and not a vast space." Unlike Les Yeux du Monde's cavernous echo chamber downtown, the new location features smaller galleries radiating from a central room.

"As an artist having a show in October, I'm very excited to make use of the intimate spaces that the new gallery provides," said Shelby Fischer. "It's great to see Lyn make such a stellar relocation."

To take advantage of its proximity to West Main Market, Les Yeux du Monde has extended its hours until 6pm, Tuesday through Saturday, to welcome the after-work crowd. Warren also plans to host a variety of educational events. "I want to make it more informational and exciting," she says.

Maybe good things also come in threes. One down, two arty ones to go.

Les Yeux du Monde's group show celebrating its new space runs through August 31. The gallery hosts a "Feast on Art" lunch August 25, with discussion led by Ellen Hathaway. In September, the gallery displays new work by John Borden Evans. 973-5566.