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Fine art has home in the midst of a construction zone

Published: 07/31/2009
SALT LAKE CITY -- When you think of the great works of art by Rembrandt, Degas and others, you probably think those paintings are mostly hanging in museums in Europe. Some are, yes, but there's a huge collection right in downtown Salt Lake City.

In a little gallery on Main Street there are hundreds of pieces by many of the old masters. It's all original work worth millions, and some are for sale.

The Hope Gallery and Museum of Fine Art is located a block away from the City Creek construction project. Owner Soren Edsberg says he always enjoys the reaction of visitors.

"When they stick their head in, they go, 'Oh, wow!" Edsberg said.

Edsberg, an artist himself, has been collecting art for five decades. He travels the world searching and buying various pieces. The collection is extensive.

"We go all the way back to Durer in the 1500s. We have quite a few Durer's, and we have a fairly big collection of Rembrandt's, and we go through the ages. But my special focus is the 1800s," Edsberg said.

Each room has a different feel. Some feature landscapes. There's also a portrait room. And the gallery has one of the largest Carl Bloch collections in the world, including his impressive religious works.

Edsberg says there are about 500 pieces here and each has a unique history.

For example, one painting by Elizabeth Baumann, titled "Reading the Scriptures," was commissioned by Napoleon.

"It was finished in 1850, and then it was in his mansion in London until he passed away, and then it was donated to the French Embassy, and now it's here in Salt Lake City," Edsberg said.

Many artists have painted the Amalfi Coast of Italy. When one particular one came up for sale, art collectors from all over the world bid on it, but Edsberg got it.

"And right after, two Italian art dealers came up to me and say, 'Hey, we came all the way over from Italy to get that painting. Can we make a deal?" Edsberg recalled. He told them no.

Edsberg says his collection is not just for lovers of rare art. He's happy to educate anyone who wants to learn more.

"For people who love art, it's such a treat, but a lot of people haven't been exposed to great art. They really haven't. And many times people will go into museums and it can be a boring experience, but it's not here," Edsberg said.

Edsberg has two art galleries and, as it turns out, both are located on Main Streets; the other one is on historic Main Street in Park City.