Stone Harbor, N.J. Seaside islands usually serve as artistic inspiration for famous artists more often than they host an exhibition of rare works.
This summer, an art gallery on this tiny island 40 miles south of Atlantic City is allowing some to combine a day at the beach with some serious art buying. Ocean Galleries is displaying a collection of etchings and lithographs by Rembrandt, Picasso and Chagall dubbed "The Magic of the Masters."
Most shoppers are still more likely to send a $1 postcard home rather than a $50,000 Picasso lithograph, but the exhibition is helping to bring rare works of art to connoisseurs and the curious alike.
"Some people come in in flip-flops, some people come in eating ice cream cones," said Josh Miller, who owns the gallery with his wife, Kim. "We're at the shore. We want everyone to enjoy the exhibits."
The works are priced from $1,500 for a small Picasso lithograph and run up to nearly $90,000 for a 17th-century Rembrandt etching. The show offers vacationers and those who live on the island year-round an opportunity to view works of art normally found only in major metropolitan areas.
"It's something that we're doing that's needed here," Kim Miller said. "It's not like where there's a million art galleries in SoHo. So we're trying to build something here because we think that the people here deserve it, and we love doing it."
Situated in a shopping district dotted with an ice cream hut and a surf shop, Ocean Galleries' walls are lined with framed works including "Corrida le Picador," a 1949 original Picasso lithograph going for $33,000 and Chagall's 1962 "Arrival of Dionysophane," available for $45,000.
The display draws a mix of serious buyers and window-shoppers who come to get a firsthand look at Chagall's colorful, dreamlike lithographs alongside etchings by Rembrandt and Picasso, which are prints that were made from an etched surface.
Lithographs are made by drawing images on stones with greasy crayons and by applying water and then printing ink. The greasy parts absorb ink, allowing prints to be made of the pictures.
The works may be tucked away inside a storefront more than 150 miles south of New York, but the Millers believe the show's caliber is anything but quaint.
"Based on what our clientele have said, it's an extraordinary collection that they haven't seen in any of the major cities that they've visited," Josh Miller said.
The pieces will remain on display in Stone Harbor until mid-June and then head to the Millers' gallery further north in Avalon, where they'll be up through July.
"Never would I have expected to have masters like that here in little Stone Harbor," said Patti DiMarco, one of about 1,500 people who live in the community year-round. "It's not like we're in New York or Philadelphia, and to have artists of this magnitude. ... the gallery has done such a phenomenal thing to bring this art to us."