Located in Rancho Santa Fe Plaza, Renaissance Galleries features work of top artists

By Kristina Houck

San Diegans don’t have to visit a museum to see the work of Leonardo da Vinci. A bronze sculpture created from a beeswax mold crafted by the Italian artist is on display and available for purchase from Renaissance Galleries in the Rancho Santa Fe Plaza.

Known as “Horse and Rider,” the roughly 9-inch-tall sculpture — not including the cradle and base — shows a man riding a bucking horse. Only 299 bronze castings were produced and 40 have already been sold, including one shortly after Renaissance Galleries’ Encinitas store opened in April.

Da Vinci molded the cast in 1508, but died before completing the project. Renaissance Galleries co-owner Michael Koligman said he was initially skeptical about the authenticity of the mold until he studied the relic with its owner, Richard A. Lewis, and da Vinci scholar Carlo Pedretti. Now Koligman is writing a book about the authentication and reproduction of the da Vinci sculpture, which included about 850 hours of his own research.

“The whole story unwound right before my eyes,” said 57-year-old Koligman, a retired engineer with an expertise in image processing and pattern recognition. “It was truly a journey. We started with nothing, just a mold.”

The sculpture, which sells for $25,000, is just one of the art pieces available at the gallery. Renaissance Galleries represents a number of artists, including Thomas Kinkade, Robert Finale and Paige O’Hara, the voice of “Bell” in the Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast.”

Renaissance Galleries only featured Kinkade’s work until the mid-2000s. While the gallery now also features the work of other artists, Kinkade continues to be the gallery’s most popular artist, and is also the inspiration behind Renaissance Galleries, Koligman said.

“It was the first artwork that my wife and I both really fell in love with,” said Koligman, who lives with his wife, Linda Koligman, in Rancho Peñasquitos.

Koligman and his wife began collecting Kinkade’s paintings soon after spotting the late artist’s work during a trip to a local winery in 1991. Three years later, the couple bought their first gallery featuring Kinkade’s pieces in Carlsbad.

“We appreciate his art and have a lot of his artwork hanging in our home, so we really believe in the artwork,” Koligman said.

After 28 years in the industry, Koligman retired from engineering in 2001 to focus on the couple’s expanding gallery business. Renaissance Galleries has had other locations in San Diego, and opened in Encinitas after closing its El Cajon gallery, which opened in 1998. In addition to the Rancho Santa Fe Plaza location, Renaissance Galleries currently has two locations in Las Vegas.

“This was a love,” Koligman said. “I’m passionate. I love talking about the artwork.”

To learn about the art they sell, Koligman and his wife have met each of the artists they feature at their galleries, and were close friends with Kinkade.

“We’re fun people and we try to create an experience,” Koligman said. “If you come into my gallery and have questions, please ask. If you’re interested in a piece, I’d be glad to talk about it.

“I want the client to be happy and not buy art for an investment or because I said they should buy it. I never say that. I say buy it because you love it and you love the story behind it.”

Renaissance Galleries is located in the Rancho Santa Fe Plaza at 162 S. Rancho Santa Fe Rd., #E-30, in Encinitas.

For more information about Renaissance Galleries, visit www.renaissanceartgalleries.com.

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