What used to be a dark, dank basement used for layaway and mattress storage at Platte Furniture is now a high-end art gallery.

And its crown jewel? “Walking the Dog,” a ceramic clay piece by Venezuelan artist Oscar Garcia Seguì priced at $6,995 that likely originally retailed for $18,000 to $20,000. The 60-inch tall piece showcases a whimsical woman with a high ponytail, beguiling smile and sky high, red Louboutin heels, walking her small, snarling pug.

“Seguì has a specialized kiln to make something of this size,” said Eli King, gallery coordinator for Platte Collections Art Gallery. “We are very lucky to have her in our estate.”

The striking piece is part of a Denver art collection that sparked the genesis of the gallery at 2331 E. Platte Place. Two years ago a Cherry Creek art collector approached Platte Furniture owners Dick Kelly and his son, Kyle Kelly, about selling her impressive, worldly collection. In her 80s and declining in health, she hoped the longtime used-furniture store would be interested in adding her pieces to its array of quality, hard to find items.

Kyle, who scours the city and country for furniture for the store, was impressed with her collection, but felt in over his head. But after consulting with an art expert, he purchased the collection for about $100,000, making it the store’s largest one-time purchase since Dick opened the business in 1978.

“He said make a deal as soon as you can,” Kyle said. “This art doesn’t come along that often.”

But the father and son faced a dilemma — they didn’t want to move it in with the regular furniture on the main level: “It wouldn’t do it justice,” Kyle said.

They had previously had no intention of opening a gallery, but with the quality and eclecticism of the collection, they realized there was an opportunity to start amassing and selling fine art. So they spent two months cleaning out the basement and a few more months turning it into a swanky gallery worthy of the notable works.

The industrial-looking space opened a little over a year ago, and now features about 200 pieces, many of which are from the Denver collection. But the Kellys also have been on the hunt for other pieces from estate sales, auctions and fine art shows across the country. The gallery and its works can be viewed online at plattefurniture.com/platte-collections.

They’ve now accumulated quite a caboodle of artistic gems, including a blue Van Briggle vase, priced at $695; a two-faced wooden shadow puppet by Wayang Goelk for $225; and original “Lassie Come Home” paintings by renowned children’s book illustrators and husband and wife Olga and Aleksey Ivanov.

“I’ll go down there after a hectic day and it’s a different music and feel,” Kyle said. “It’s a place to see crazy pieces that are really fun in the back of a used furniture store. I want to keep surprising people. You come downstairs and turn the corner and say I would never have guessed.”

Beginning this month, Platte Collections will participate in First Friday, which means free monthly opening receptions from 4-8 p.m. Local artists also will be given an alcove to display their works for two months at a time. Other events will take place monthly, including a free cocktail hour from 4-8 p.m. March 24. Visitors during non-event times need to have a store employee take them downstairs.

“You walk into new stores and it feels like you’re seeing the same things over and over,” Kyle said. “I want to be a store where people walk in and say oh, this is nice, unique stuff. My goal, when I priced (the Denver collector’s) stuff, was to price it half of what they paid for it. You’re paying $4,000 for a sculpture, but we have receipts that say she paid $7,900. We want people to feel like they’re getting a deal.”

Contact the writer: 636-0270

Contact the writer: 636-0270

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