How does a woman of the world bring art to Knoxville? Buy a block of buildings and open her own gallery.
Born in Tel Aviv, Ilana Lilienthal grew up with both Middle Eastern and European cultures, which cemented her foundational interest in diverse artistic impressions. Bilingual (German and Hebrew), Ilana spent her childhood traveling through Europe, embracing the art, music, and dance that her parents exposed her to. She wound up studying art history, her favorite being Christian iconography of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Ilana eventually landed in New York City in the late 80s, which fed her creativity and provided space to develop her own style.
“I was always painting,” she says. “Being in New York at that time was interesting. People started doing graffiti on the subway trains, and you had to be careful where you went. And then in the early 90s, the city was a little more spiritual. It affected my art.”
Ilana moved to Florida in the mid-90s, where she started experimenting with mixed media, painting murals, and establishing herself in the art community. She played an integral role in the development of Wynwood, Miami’s central creative and cultural space, complete with craft breweries, food halls, boutiques, galleries, and street art. It was a vibrant time, but one that would eventually end and lead Ilana to Knoxville.
“I’d never heard of Knoxville, but my husband is a country boy. I’m a city girl and had no idea what it was going to be like. We drove here, bought an apartment downtown, and fell in love with Knoxville,” says Ilana. “I still had a gallery in Jupiter, but when Covid happened, we sold our house in Florida and decided to open a studio here.”
For the creative person, there is a natural inclination to be in a space where that creativity can bloom and be celebrated. Ilana is an artist whose work has been in shows all over the world, so she has a keen sense of what a gallery space should and shouldn’t be. While Gay St. had the traffic, it didn’t have the retail space suited to complement an art gallery. Eventually, she stumbled upon Emory Place and decided to buy the entire block and have more control over who would be her neighbors and partners in creating a cross-section of art, fashion, and culture. Lilienthal Gallery opened in 2022, and there are plans in the works for future businesses and neighbors.
Ultimately, the goal for the gallery is to spotlight national and international artists and elevate the existing art community through contemporary exhibits.
“I wanted to bring to Knoxville an art scene that people haven’t experienced yet. I’m not showing things you use to decorate your house. I want to attract collectors,” says Ilana. “Most of my artists have collections all over the world. If you buy from my gallery, you know the piece is going to double in value in a few years.”
This month on exhibition at the Lilienthal Gallery is Metamorphosis, featuring three international artists – Eszter Bornemisza, Alke Reeh, and Martha Rieger. Gallery goers will appreciate the variety of mediums on display, from fibers created from plants to clay and rope.
“I want to see people coming in to experience a different kind of show. I want to bring more to the fine arts menu in Knoxville and have it be recognized by the art world,” says Ilana. “People shouldn’t have to fly to New York or L.A. or Europe to see art. We have different programs, events, and exhibitions. It’s exciting, and I think Knoxville can benefit from it.”
Learn more at LilienthalGallery.com.
"I want to see people coming in to experience a different kind of show. I want to bring more to the fine arts menu in Knoxville and have it be recognized by the art world."