When Allison Sprock moved from Atlanta to Charleston two and a half years ago, she had no money, no means of support, and no business starting a gallery. “I was told I’d never make it,” she recalls, “because I wasn’t selling what the tourists wanted.” But Sprock instinctively knew that there was a market for progressive, out-of-the-ordinary art on King Street.

After a few months of tourists and locals visiting her gallery and saying they were glad to see something different, Sprock knew that her instincts had been correct. She describes herself as more of a wannabe artist than a dealer or gallery owner, showing an eclectic collection that suits her own tastes. “I wish I could paint or draw,” she says. “I get so excited about getting new pieces and first pick from batches of new art.”

Walking into a reception in her second-floor space at 179½ King is more like attending a laid-back party than a formal art opening. “I’d always like it to be remembered as somewhere really fun, where you can enjoy yourself whether you enjoy the art or not.” Sprock cites a couple of instances of friends who have gradually been exposed to her art, starting with little interest but becoming keen collectors. Sometimes it takes two to three years, but with the artists on Sprock’s roster the soaking-up period is rewarding.

There are no still-lifes in the gallery; Sprock prefers portraits, nudes, and other figurative work to abstract landscapes. “I’m honest to a fault. I’m not good at pretending if I don’t like something,” she explains. So when young artist Sean Williams walked in with a big canvas, she was relieved to find that she liked his work.

Williams’ art is juxtaposed with a nude sculpture by Travis Teate, colorful figures by Elizabeth Stehling, portraits by Russia-born Constantin Chatov (the cornerstone of Sprock’s stock), and pieces by two dozen other artists.

“If you know what you like and can afford it, you don’t need to be an authority on art history,” says the gallery owner. She hopes that another artist on her roster, Felice Sharp, will be coming to the gallery next month. “She’s very humble and dear to me,” she says. Sprock may not consider herself a dealer or a gallery guru but she loves her job and the art she shows. That seems to serve her artists very well. — Nick Smith

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