Special Reports

April 25, 2013

Vista gallery owner selling art that needs to be noticed

Wim Roefs believes in surrounding himself with good art – at home, in his gallery, in public places.

Wim Roefs believes in surrounding himself with good art – at home, in his gallery, in public places.

A decade ago, the freelance-writer-turned-arts-promoter organized his first exhibitions as part of Vista Lights.

By late 2006, Roefs had rented a narrow storefront at 1223 Lincoln St. for a contemporary gallery he calls if ART. The name stands for “international fine art,” but Roefs suggests a world of possibilities by asking: “If art, then what?”

The Vista’s arts and antiques identity is strong, he said, with galleries and shops, interior-design services and video production companies. He’s considering an expansion.

Roefs emerges from the second floor of his gallery, a loft lined with art and art-history books accessed by a straightforward, industrial staircase in resounding metal. He has samples of exhibition catalogues he created, brochures that set him apart in a community with just a handful of art galleries.

He sells the work of roughly 30 artists, most South Carolinians, who he said “need to be noticed.”

“If I’m going to go to the trouble of selling art,” he said, “I should at least have the benefit of selling art that I love and respect.”

Four or five times a year, Roefs organizes two-week exhibitions at Vista Studios around the corner, a hub for Columbia’s art community since it opened in 1990.

Roefs, 53, is a native of the Netherlands and is married to Eileen Waddell, an editor with The State newspaper. He came to Columbia in 1989 to study at the University of South Carolina.

He is chairman of the board and was founding director of the 701 Center for Contemporary Art in Olympia, a draw for regional art-related activities. And he serves on an advisory committee supervising Charlotte’s efforts to place art along its light-rail system.

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