portrait society, panorama, by brian jacobson

Photo by Brian Jacobson (2014)

Portrait Society is a contemporary art gallery dedicated to the issues surrounding the genre of portraiture. Established in 2008, the gallery showcases both current and historic artists who work broadly and loosely with the ideas of portrait traditions. Portrait Society is interested in project driven bodies of work that explore the concepts and ideas of making art about identity, presence, social interaction and community. The gallery seeks to expand the ways in which art is shown, inspire contact and dialog, and foster a sense of community within its orbit. The portrait is, by nature, a transactional exchange between two or more human beings. It is the only art form that depends on this kind of intimacy. The gallery also represents an impressive roster of self-taught artists, including Rosemary Ollison, Romano Johnson, Rudy Rotter, Bernard Gilardi, Mike (Ringo) White, Della Wells.


Gallery Director Debra Brehmer (Photo by J. Shimon & J. Lindemann, part of the Real Photo Postcard Survey project).

Gallery Director Debra Brehmer is an art historian who teaches part time at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. She has curated numerous exhibitions and written extensively about art for various publications for 20 years. Locally, her writing can be found regularly in Milwaukee Magazine and nationally in Hyperallergic. She was also the founder, publisher and editor of Art Muscle Magazine.

Recently, the art critic Mary Louise Schumacher had this to say about the gallery, “It warrants saying that Debra Brehmer, an important voice in the art community and a longtime critic and gallery owner, seems to be doing the work she was made for at the Portrait Society Gallery these days. The gallery expanded about a year ago and is the Milwaukee gallery that performed at an exceptional level most consistently in 2013.”

Temporary Art Review: Profile of Portrait Society

Portrait Society’s Growing Vision: Shepherd Express

Portrait Society is  located in Milwaukee’s Third Ward at 207 E. Buffalo Street, on the fifth floor of the Marshall Building, Milwaukee, WI 53202.  Call 414.870.9930 for information.

Gallery hours are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays noon to 5 p.m.

The gallery will find artists in all media to serve your portrait needs. Call 414.870.9930.

This is one art writer’s take on the gallery:

Fresh perspectives on portraiture

By Aisha Motlani

Despite the fact they’ve helped immortalize countless historic figures we want to remember (and many we’d rather forget) and have furnished art history with some of its most iconic works, one can’t help feeling portrait artists have had a bit of a rough deal. Today especially it seems the burden of marrying a strong conceptual core with formal integrity lies more heavily on their shoulders than elsewhere. Perhaps that’s what makes the Portrait Society Gallery such a breath of fresh air. Within its two intimate rooms (there are now three rooms) gallery owner Debra Brehmer has created a casual, domestic setting in which to enjoy the work of artists who approach the art of portraiture from a broad variety of perspectives. Whether it’s the energetic carvings and paintings of self-taught artists like Rudy Rotter, the refined pastel drawings of little known artists like Kenneth Brown Ransley or Nicholas Grider photographs of suited men poised in domestic settings, the Portrait Society’s exhibits (and Brehmer’s intelligent essays posted on the gallery website or published in exhibit catalogues) generously embrace what portraiture is and what it can become.


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