A new art venue has opened in Solana Beach with the Oolong Gallery, hoping to bring a bit of culture and sophistication between two surf shops on Highway 101.
Owner Eric Lane, 45, is a Cardiff resident and has been transplanted from New York. He has worked in the contemporary art world for 20 years, including 15 years in New York in various roles as an artist manager, gallery assistant and independent curator and art dealer with projects in Berlin, Miami and Los Angeles as a member of New Art Dealer Alliance (NADA).
With Oolong, Laine can finally add a gallery owner to his curated titles.
In the gallery, he hopes to present fine art with fun and interesting receptions, alternating shows every six weeks. In addition to presenting art, he also hopes to host talks with artists, screenings, recitals and events, welcoming established collectors and patrons, art beginners and children.
“It’s a wild start,” Lane said. “It’s kind of from the left field,”
Oolong got a boost when he partnered with “weird transplants like me” Matt Moore and Carrie Marrill, whom he met in the fifth grade of his son Edgar at Ada Harris Elementary School.
The two had moved to Cardiff from Phoenix during the pandemic and, like Lane, had experience in the arts. Moore, who is on the board of Creative Capital, a national organization that funds art projects, used the Solana Beach space as a showroom for Matteo Goods, its line of design office desks. Maril also used the space as an art studio before opening the nearby Punkwasp store, selling her small batches of clothing and jewelry.
Since Matteo’s desks were mostly sold online, they no longer needed space and offered it to Laine, who had already had the idea for Oolong to cook in his head for many years.
Inherited from his late father, he decided to take the money and invest it in something meaningful, fulfilling both a long-held dream and bringing more art to the North County San Diego area.
“The space is beautiful, it looks like a tea room, so I came up with the name Oolong,” Lane said of the modern space, which opens to the open.
Since the opening, Lane said he has been embraced by the Solana Beach community, which is so supportive of his business and also makes connections in the local art scene – Oolong was a green sponsor of the Greener Gala on June 25 at the Institute of Contemporary Art in San Diego (ICA, former Lux Institute).
Oolong’s inaugural show, “Global Entry”, opened on June 4 and will continue in the summer, bringing together an eclectic group of 13 established and budding contemporary artists. It was an ambitious first venture for Lane and the gallery: “This show was so much work, I’ve never had such a big group show, nothing of this caliber,” he said.
Artists featured on the show include Bas Louter, a Los Angeles-based artist who specializes in innovative mixed media collage techniques; Griselda Rosas, a “local phenomenon” whose watercolor paintings include stitching on paper and ostrich skin; and Alika Cooper, a Los Angeles-based Poway-based artist who has won awards for her paintings but explores new territory with her bronze swimsuit sculptures. Lane Maril’s partner has two tracks on the show, as does artist Robbie Simon, who designed the Oolong Gallery’s retro-inspired logo.
“Many of these artists understand that this is a new market and are curious about how their work will be presented here,” Lane said.
Lane said the launch was “amazingly successful” and could not have happened without the help of his “wonderful” 18-year-old assistant Margo Yinger and public relations specialist Olivia Mueller, whom she happened to meet at the Encinitas dog park.
Those who watched the show liked it, Lane said. “It’s very difficult to get people to leave their comfort zones, but that’s the goal,” he said, noting that he needed to persuade several people to travel all the way from Cardiff “from there” to Solana Beach.
After making people experience Oolong, he said he hoped it would give a better understanding of the importance of creating, appreciating and collecting art – he wanted to celebrate people who do beautiful things.
“I love the work I show, I’m just a fan of these artists,” Lane said. “Shock and awe are not the subject… I personally love the pleasure of the arts, I will make it fun.”
Lane added, “Let’s just see what happens.”
Oolong Gallery is located at 349 North Coast Highway 101 in Solana Beach, south of Mitch’s Surf Shop and next to Solana Succulents. For more information, visit oolongallery.com or check them out on Instagram @Oolongallery