Anna Walker Skillman, Executive Director of Jackson Fine Art. Photographs by Isadora Pennington.

After 33 years of renting a building on East Shadowlawn Avenue in Buckhead, Jackson Fine Art has made a leap just across the street to a new location. I recently had the opportunity to meet with Executive Director Anna Walker Skillman and got a sneak peek into their new digs as well as the vibrant inaugural exhibition opening there this Friday.

The new 4,000-square foot gallery space features large windows that let in tons of natural light, three distinct exhibition spaces on the main floor, office space, and kitchenette. Upstairs is their conference area, a full kitchen, library, plenty of storage, plus spaces dedicated to packing and shipping artwork. The space retains a home-like ambiance that allows for an upscale and elevated but still comfortable atmosphere inside. Light wood floors and bright white walls serve as an ideal backdrop to showcase incredible art such as the current exhibition featuring the works of Cooper & Gorfer, Sheila Pree Bright, and Francesca Woodman.

From initial purchase to completion, the relocation process involved three years of planning, design, renovations, and implementation of systems to better serve the gallery. Skillman shared that they had periodically contemplated a move for the gallery in her years there– including thoughts of potentially moving to the Westside – but ultimately decided against it. Until, that is, a building just across the street came on the market in 2019. 

“We were always kind of looking because we had grown since I bought the gallery in 2003,” recalled Skillman. She and her co-owner Andy Heyman had considered how to grow and expand, but the conversation didn’t really get serious until around 2015. While many of Atlanta’s fine art connoisseurs have been long standing fans of Jackson Fine Art, Skillman admits that E. Shadowlawn can sometimes be seen as a hidden pocket of fine art in Buckhead. Keen on maintaining the valuable relationships they have built within their community, and always a proponent of synergy, Skillman didn’t want to reinvent Jackson Fine Art in an altogether new part of town. And so, when the building which formerly housed a hair salon at 3122 East Shadowlawn Avenue came on the market it seemed like a perfect fit.

The original Jackson Fine Art location is now available for lease. Photograph by Isadora Pennington.

But buying the property wouldn’t be that simple. During initial negotiations Skillman came to an agreement with the seller multiple times, but at each instance the price changed in such a way as to prevent the sale from closing. For a time it seemed the deal was dead in the water. That is until 2020 when the seller approached Skillman with rights of first refusal to buy at a previously agreed-upon price. They said yes and the real work began.

“It really was a big leap for me financially,” said Skillman. “I tried not to really think about it as it was happening.” Fortunately, Skillman’s partner Andy Heyman is also the Managing Partner at ASH Investment Partners and he was able to ensure that the purchase and subsequent renovations came to fruition. Skillman told me that she designed the space to be, in essence, her dream home. And dreamy it is.

Extensive renovations were completed with the help of Siegel Construction & Design alongside Karpaty Cabinets who ensured that the space was not only beautiful but also functional. You see, Jackson Fine Art and Skillman herself have an incredible array of original artworks, prints, and an extensive library of art books. It was important to have experts who could weigh in on exactly how much storage they would need and how best to optimize the spaces for Jackson Fine Art’s daily use. 

All of which brings us to this weekend’s inaugural exhibition in Jackson Fine Art’s new space. The opening this weekend will feature exquisite works by celebrated Atlanta photographer Sheila Pree Bright, an exclusive selection of photographs by – and portraits of – the late, great Francesca Woodman, and the first American exhibition for Stockholm-based artist duo Cooper & Gorfer. Opens at Jackson Fine Art on Fri., Mar. 24 from 7-9 p.m. with an artist talk to follow, Sat., Mar. 25 at 11 a.m.

Isadora Pennington is a freelance writer and photographer based in Atlanta. She is the editor of Sketchbook by Rough Draft, a weekly Arts newsletter.