When it comes to the biggest names in film art, you might expect to find galleries that carry it in New York or Hollywood—but the owners of ArtInsights Animation and Film Art Gallery call Reston their home.
"We opened the gallery in Reston Town Center only a year after [RTC] opened, before it became such a destination,” said co-owner Michael Barry. “Being near Dulles, it's convenient to those coming here from other parts of the world. We have clients in England, France, Japan, and all sorts of other places, so we needed to be close to an international airport."
"The East Coast made more sense for that reason, and I have roots in the Washington area,” said co-owner Leslie Combemale. “I know about the sophisticated group of art collectors and movie lovers here. We felt in our gut it would be perfect. Luckily we were right."
The gallery has a large collection of art by top movie illustrators, major studios and more. Properties like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and all the Disney classics are available at ArtInsights, and not all the art is on the gallery’s walls — some that long-term collectors and even those new to animation and film art is stored in files.
ArtInsights was one of the first companies to promote film art worldwide, creating relationships and associations with artists such as the late John Alvin, who created the iconic movie posters for E.T., Beauty and the Beast, Blade Runner, Young Frankenstein and many other films.
"From the very beginning, Leslie was excited and passionate about John's art,” said Andrea Alvin, wife of John Alvin. “There is an infectious quality about her excitement. She truly loves the art and the movies and that is apparent to collectors, and she knows her stuff. She has promoted the art worldwide and expanded John's visibility and collectors base."
ArtInsights also represents many artists who have worked in the film industry.
"We have a loyalty to those who have inspired us to go see the movies in the first place. Those who created ‘the promise of a great experience,’ as John Alvin used to say. The fact that these illustrators are given very specific guidelines when promoting or developing a movie but still maintain their own artistic aesthetic, inspiring the viewer — that is genius to me.”
Additionally, as film art becomes more popular artists are always being added to ArtInsights list of those they work with. One of the newest artists the gallery has begun to work with is Ciara McAvoy, who has worked on films such as X-Men, Sherlock Holmes, Revenge of the Sith and Mission Impossible.
McAvoy is in high demand in Europe and is the most successful woman in the industry, according to Combemale. She works only in oil, and her works have a photo-realistic style. Combemale said McAvoy caught her eye when she noticed she had more than 220,000 fans on Facebook — more than any other visual artist, male or female, dead or alive.
“When I realized their passion for the art and movies is equal to mine, I knew it was a perfect match,” McAvoy said of ArtInsights. “Now I work with them exclusively. With them, finding collectors for my art has become fun."
For ArtInsights, the new partnership was a bit daunting at first. When the partnership was first announced, the gallery had thousands of hits within a few minutes. "Its a problem that's nice to have,” Barry said.
The gallery just received McAvoy’s art in-house, but have been pleased how immediately and how well she has been received by their collectors, and how many new clients she has already brought into their fold.
The gallery still promotes the art of Disney and animation art, as it was their specialization when they opened in 1994. As ArtInsights was one of the first galleries in the country to promote production art of Disney, and have become international experts in vintage Disney art, they want to continue to offer a collection of un-restored and original cartoon art for the purists who have collected from them for more than 20 years, Combemale said.
The owners also believe it’s their responsibility to educate others on animation and film art and the other collectibles in the gallery. They created a web magazine, ArtInsights Magazine, where they publish videos and articles about artists and their art, so people can become more informed without having to spend any money.
Combemale also began writing movie reviews as Cinema Siren on ArtInsights Magazine, which are also featured on area Patch sites.
Combemale said film art offers nostalgia and comfort to those it collects, which may account for its growing popularity.
“It's nice to know that a small business, this art gallery focusing on such a unique and specialized market, succeeds in our back yard,” Combemale said. “It gives other little guys out there hope that with a great idea, and creative partnerships, success and longevity is indeed possible.”