Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Art must have heart in Steel's new gallery

Novelist's side venture has love theme

By Elizabeth Lydon
The Associated Press

An art collector for most of her life, best-selling author Danielle Steel is opening a gallery of her own in San Francisco, full of the kind of art she loves best.

For paintings and sculpture to be displayed in Steel Gallery, the author says they "must speak" to her. Artists who create dark and depressing works need not apply.

"I established the gallery to present bright, exciting, well thought-out pieces that will bring the viewer joy and happiness and which are fun to live with," Steel says.

The love theme is evident inside. Steel's favorite color, red, screams from almost every angle. Some of the artwork for sale even contains hearts.

Steel says the pieces are "selling like crazy" even before the official opening today. Others in the city's art scene seem impressed as well.

"I loved the feeling of the gallery, fun and casual," said Ariane Maclean, who directs Gen Art, an organization that promotes young artists, audiences and collectors in San Francisco.

That's the goal, says Steel, who says all the pieces reflect her personal preferences.

"I've been working with the mentally ill and the homeless and those are very heavy, very saddening pursuits," says Steel, whose son, Nick, suffered from manic-depression and committed suicide at 19. She runs foundations involved with mental illness.

San Francisco already has more than 60 galleries, but Steel says she's not trying to compete with them. The gallery, occupying a space just blocks away from her Pacific Heights mansion, is about promoting little-known artists, mostly from the Bay Area.

Steel has tried her own hand at visual art, making collages that "tell a story about how I'm feeling."

"My books give people hope, and gives them context in their daily life," she says. "My paintings, my happy art, does the same," she adds, referring not to her own collages, which she doesn't plan to display, but to the work of the 16 artists she's signed up so far.

Steel, who has nine children, sounds positively maternal when she talks about the emerging artists she's chosen to promote.

"I feel like I've taken on 16 new children," she says. "It's a decision of the heart. I'm proud of all of them.

"Because of my success I can show whom I want to show. My idea is it should be happy art. Fun art. I want people to feel great."

On the Web: www.steelgalleryinc.com

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