Saturday, 5 January 2013

4th Anniversary Exhibition - Our Best Yet?

Our anniversary falls on the same night as the Teddington Christmas lights are switched on, and this, our 4th birthday, was one of the busiest and liveliest we have had to date.   We were concerned that our invitations had gone out with the wrong date (4 of us proof read the invitations and the wrong one was sent to print!) and that turn-out would be limited, but, happily,  that wasn't the case.    It may well be due to the Teddington Society's organisation this year and greater involvement from Traders in the area thanks to Teddington Business Community, both of whom are very active in promoting local small businesses.  Strength to their arm.  If you want to watch their video of Lights Up here's the link - the gallery is shown 26 seconds into the video for about 1 second! Don't blink!.

We've had several excellent exhibitions in the period since we last posted a blog - we have a passionate new Saturday curator, Steve, who started with us in September of last year.  He replaced Paul Smith, one of our regular artists who curated on Saturdays for 18 months.  Giving up every Saturday, particularly when you have a young family is quite a commitment.  Since the birth of his second child and giving up working every Saturday, he is painting again and we look forward to showing his work in the gallery.  Have a look at his work here.

This current exhibition has some fantastic works and has sold exceptionally well since opening.  It isn't surprising considering the line-up.  You can see the current artists for Outlands on our Website

Outlands is an exhibition that tries to look at the different ways artists view the world around them.  Bozena Kaluga's work, for example, is quite extraordinary, using woven fabrics to create imagery.  Some of my favourite pieces are the jewel like framed works with stories woven in between two pieces of glass.  She uses thread to create images that, close up, look like delicate pieces of fabric, and from a distance the story is clear and yours to interpret.  Bozena is already very established and collectable in her native Poland and this is one of the first opportunities to see and collect her work in the UK.

Kaluga's work has resonance with that of John Harrison who uses layers of foam board, to create portraits of the famous. His portraits of the Beatles are fascinatingly abstract when viewed closely, and, again, the image emerges once you step away and is unmistakeable - my favourite being Ringo Star.  Harrison is an emerging artist and his technique is relatively unique.

Works that also tell a story and are selling well are those of Orsi Cowell-Lehoczky.  The glazed paintings are about a dog that the family had, who was much loved but became jealous of the arrival of a new baby.  One of the paintings depicts his departure - he was re-homed with another family with older children - and the painting of his running into the woods is a happy ending for all concerned, missed as he is.  Two of these paintings have already sold and we are hoping to get more from Orsi.  My favourite is the small nude shown here.  This has sold to one of our favourite collectors and long may it be enjoyed.

In early February we are intending to have a reshuffle and invite new artists to show some pieces with us.  This will be needed considering how quickly artwork is leaving the walls.  We'll e-mail those on our mailing list and if you would like to be added please let us know.

We get asked how we find our artists.  Some are recommended, some are artists that we've shown before and new artists approach us all of the time.  We receive a mountain of e-mails each month and go through them when we're nearing the end of an exhibition.  The best way to approach us is by e-mail - with images and prices of available work.  With a great deal of artwork it is essential to see it in the flesh - it can look very different on a pc.  Our next exhibition is programmed for the end of March/early April.

If you haven't visited the gallery yet, it's worth popping in.  We're friendly, informal, there is always something for everyone, we make a lovely cup of coffee and we let you be so you can view the artwork in peace!  Have a look at the world through an artist's eyes.

As Van Gogh said  "I dream my painting and I paint my dream."

Sunday, 13 December 2009

First Anniversary

Rather unbelievably, it's been 5 months and two changes of exhibition the last blog entry.

The fifth change in September started off very well with some wonderful pastels by Anthony Barrow, intense landscapes by John Ryan and incredibly serene work by Paul Smith. Sales then went rather quiet until the end of the exhibition with two works by Paul Smith selling in the last week and one of Suchi Chidambaram's on the day we were taking the exhibition down! A very beautiful painting by Michael Little also sold on the last Saturday as a Christmas present. This was then accidentally collected by the artist as I wasn't there first thing on the following Monday morning!

I'm not sure what happened to the optimism that was bubbling up just before the summer holidays; perhaps it was dampened by holiday costs, but the sales for the September exhibition were not great. A shame really as the work was very much admired and, particularly with new artists to the gallery, it's always a pleasure making the phone call to the artists.

The change of exhibition for our anniversary show was fraught with difficulties. My very lovely father in Law died last month. Because he died abroad, knowing when to take time off for the funeral was difficult. It was completely unexpected. He was fine. And now he's gone. Wherever he was in the world, he always managed to make it to the private views and was a big supporter of the gallery. I miss him.

So, I was very late in organising invitations, selecting artwork and contacting artists. Then during hanging week, not only did the office manager, my right hand man for change of exhibitions, have to take time off for family reasons, but I came down with a very nasty flu - it was so bad, I'm sure it was ManFlu! I woke up with fevers on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday mornings and, on Monday, completely forgot about various commitments, including site visits and the fact that several artists were collecting work. I hadn't prepared poor Abi and she was inundated. I had spent the Saturday late afternoon taking down work and preparing it for collection, but had not told her that the Michael Little painting in the office was sold! Whilst most of the artists were lovely and professional, one made Abi wrap the paintings while she stood and watched. She's off my Christmas card list.

I was sitting on the gallery wall about 2.5m up full of various ibuprofen and paracetamol concoctions putting up the Christmas lights whilst Abi held the ladder in between preparing wall labels, feeling pretty overwhelmed with the prospect of hanging the show in time and wondering how on earth I was going to open on the Thursday night. John Gibson, one of the builders I work with regularly, called and offered help. Not being someone who knows how to accept help graciously, I said I was fine. I'm delighted to say that he didn't believe me and on Tuesday evening he turned up at the gallery with three of his men and completely transformed the situation. They helped hang, they hoovered, they cleaned and they moved work; they got rid of rubbish and they were a god send. Then on the night of the private view, Abi cancelled her commitments to help serve the wine and Adam, my wonderful nanny's fiance, gave up his evening to be barman. The whole week was transformed by nothing less than angels - John and his team, Abi and Adam. I am very lucky to have such good friends.

The other angel - one that has stopped me going completely bonkers - is Mickey Bodimeade. Not only has she designed the invitations for the last two shows, she has also redesigned our website and it is fantastic. Apart from removing huge amounts of work from my to-do list - the invitations were taking so long because I was using an inappropriate programme - its wonderful having a superbly talented graphic designer, one that genuinely justifies the title "designer" as opposed to "selector of font type and size". She has an excellent eye for arrangement, has redone our logo and our identity is starting to come together and look more professional. All this talent and a beautiful person as well! You can see another of her websites at

It nearly went rather horribly wrong when the wine didn't arrive but the guests did - although we advertised an opening time of 7.00pm everyone started arriving at 6.15 as we're the first stop after the lights! Must remember for next year. Majestic Wine had got stuck in traffic but got there just as the first group of guests were filing in through the door. Majestic on Cross Deep have been consistently good in providing a very nice "party" wine and plenty of glasses! Thanks to Alex and his team at the Strawberry Hill branch!

A local cameraman video'd the evening and its on YouTube at - watch out for the gallery, it appears for about 3 seconds at the beginning, but its a lovely film if you're a local! And I am, very proudly, a local gal!

You can see Andy Waite's beautiful work in the window, and the piece I wanted for myself has already sold. In the first week we have now sold three pieces of work including a Steve Capper work - they are always lovely and do very well. I love the current exhibition - apart from Andy Waite's work and Andrew Hoods, there are some new artists that I'm rather proud of. One is Maureen Stephenson with her impressions of light through rainy glass. Her brush strokes are quite complex and the detail of each painting is quite fascinating and as mesmeric as the whole.

Another artist whose work I'm showing for the first time is Andrew Radomski. Having trained as an artist and art restorer, his surrealist work using pastels is incredible in every sense of the word. I'm amazed that this man is not incredibly famous for his skill, his vision and his classically trained hand and eye. In my view, he is the next Dali and I intend to try hard to ensure that his work does not go unrecognised.

So, two weeks into this exhibition and I'm delighted with sales so far - if the construction side is any indication of the economic situation, then we are on the mend for sure. I'm rather resentful of media misery that propagates a myth serving no one except for newspaper sales and wish they would just leave the economy to start healing itself. Yes, its been an undoubtedly tough year and yes, it was a pretty bad recession and we're left with a huge national debt. But enough. This isn't the first time nor will it be the last. Neither will we learn too many lessons from it. But it is time to recover now. I see us as a resilient and optimistic nation (in spite of Daily Mail readers) and we have reached our fill of negativity. It is time to start rebuilding instead of the economic hibernation that has only perpetuated the problems.

Okay, I'll get off my soap box now.....

So, what's next. Two exhibitions are in the offing, both rather short as they include two or three artists each.

The first is a project that I've been trying to move forward for some time. It's not a unique idea I'm told, but it was inspired by a friend, Philip Wells - otherwise known as The Fire Poet. Whilst I love his performances (and he is a superb performance poet, receiving a standing ovation on the 14th November at The Albert Hall), I can't always remember the words. I wanted a painting with one of his poems inscribed into it. I had contacted Kurt Jackson because his artwork is just beautiful and evocative of landscapes and histories and also quite often includes scribed text, although not poetry. Jackson, rather understandably, is booked for the next two years! So the search continued until I came across the work of Lisa Henderson. Having also trained as an art historian, the layers of her mixed media work, their depth of colour, their links with the landscape and recognition of works past; together with the intelligence of her compositions made her the perfect artist for the project. All that was left was for her to be inspired by Philip's poetry and that wasn't difficult. Some of Lisa's new works are hanging in the current show as well - ariel views of Teddington and Kingston, one of which I'm rather desperate to own as its a location map of the gallery, and quite beautiful.

I'm very excited about this project and it is now in the making. It will require apt and timely promotion and that needs to start now.

The second was proposed by Alistair Tucker, another of my favourite artists. He proposed an exhibition of his work together with that of Jason Hicklin and Norman Ackroyd RA. This will be a fantastic exhibition, not just because of the standing of the artists and the incredible beauty of their work, but also because of the uniformity of the show. Having hung several mixed shows, usually with 12 artists or more in each, it has been quite tricky to get the gallery to "hang" well. A unity of theme and media will be a pleasure to hang. Watch this space for complexity - perhaps I speak too soon!!

In any case, I'm also excited about meeting Norman Ackroyd! I've always been a fan of his work.

There is a complexity with Jason Hicklin in that he is tied to another gallery so part of the commission will go to them. Having spoken to the gallery, they do sound rather decent, but nonetheless, I'm curious as to how these agreements are structured and why an artist would agree to them. Is the investment in the artists much greater than the usual made in any artist when they are shown and promoted by a gallery? If so, how? It already costs a fortune to change shows, hang the work, print leaflets and brochures (and that's before starting to print individual artist brochures which I'm hoping to do in the future), advertise the exhibition, promote the artist on the website, print in house information on them, etc. etc. The only thing I haven't done so far is take artists to the Art Fairs - and that is something that is planned for next year, depending on available funds! Different gallerists tell me different costs for showing at the Affordable Art Fair; some say its from £3,500 others say its around £15,000!! For a weekend! I will find out and let you know, but someone has said that if it wasn't worth it, gallerists wouldn't do it. The reports for last year's shows was that they broke even. So its probably worth trying at least once!

Having completed the gallery's first year with a degree of success - measured by the aims, which were to promote the gallery's existence and to survive! - the new year's intention is for the architect's gallery to become one of the best known is respected galleries in London! That, of course, and to become profitable! We have quickly become a part of Teddington life and the regulars to the gallery, whether buyers or admirers, always comment about the excellent quality of the work we show and the interesting variety in every exhibition. I wonder if at some point we're going to have to be shocking to be notable?

Part of next year's resolution though is to also spend more time with my family. I have been averaging 64 hours a week, including working on Saturdays, which is just not good for my kids. I'm hoping that in the New Year I will work every other Saturday and the lovely Julie will do the other two! Julie is a multi talented artist in her own right - an actress, a poet (of erotic poetry for vegans and vegetarians - her latest book, of which I have a signed copy, is printed on elephant dung paper!) and a gallerist having worked at another gallery before. She is also a complete charmer and a delight to speak to!

It is one of the unexpected delights of the gallery - I have met a plethora of people, some of whom are just a pleasure to know and definitely life enriching.

The next exhibition is planned to open on the 30th January 2010 with the PV on the 29th. I'm looking forward to it. I will update this blog with some images of work later.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Summer Exhibition

It's the end of the first week of the Summer Exhibition at the gallery and I'm still trying to catch up with myself. It always is so hectic building up to the exhibition, then the hanging week, followed by a period of catching up. Luckily we've sold 6 pieces from this exhibition so far.

It is getting easier in some ways; there are patterns and templates but they are still time consuming. The mixed shows are also more difficult to hang - several crises of confidence, so about three changes before I settled on the current hanging. It's all going to change as work sells and new works go on the walls. The balance and unity of the whole thing starts to fall apart.

There were a few nightmares; the framers went to a funeral and forgot about my frames. I'd decided to frame the Ukrainian artist's work - Ruslan Korostenskij - and it was the right decision. He is a master in the making there, is no doubt in my mind. Then the window cleaner had an accident and we had to call an ambulance. The labels always take so long, but the beautiful Suchi Chidambaram helped and saved me a couple of hours of sticking them on the walls. This time, there was the added task of chopping up the strawberries, cucumbers and mint for the Pimms - it did go down very well. Kurt didn't swear so much this time - perhaps we're getting the hang of this (apologies for the pun!).

Anne Penman Sweet's fantastic paintings finally arrived. I'd been dreaming of them - particularly the ship paintings - and was sorry not to have them, but the Stephanie Hoppen Gallery sold them all. Whilst they're not quite "on message" in terms of the otherwise bright summer show, they are just wonderful. The largest is up on the high wall where it deserves to be - it does need to be viewed from a distance.

This time there are several very established "collectors' artists" - Anne Sweet, Simon Blackwood, and Ruslan Korostenskij. There are also some really fantastic works from five local artists - the most we've had in one exhibition. Linda Meeney did very well at the Chelsea Flower show and I can see why. Patricia Clements' work is just lovely and I'm delighted to have some 14 pieces in the gallery. Jill Storey is very well known locally and several of her friends have been to see the show. Emma Coleman's photographs are just beautiful - what a lovely way of seeing through a lens that she has. I've managed to avoid the cheesy photos of my kids, but I think Emma's the person to do non-cheesy ones! New to the Gallery is Anthony Hopkins - bold works reminiscent of Matisse. That's not to mention all the other works and I love every single one of them.

So now to updating the website. I usually try to launch it at the same time as the opening but it is a huge amount of work. I've started updating it and I've decided to remove the detail pages to reduce its size and the time it takes to upload. This should also mean less work the next time - this time, there is the work in copying the information for each artwork and deleting the detail pages. As we don't sell work over the Internet and it is there for client and artist reference there seems little point in having a larger more detailed photo. I know that some artwork is bought over the Internet, but until one is very familiar with the artist, I feel the work should be seen. Even then, they can produce very different work in quality, colour, depth of paintwork, medium and that's without the alterations the camera itself can make to the image.

The photos I will upload a bit later show the changes in wall hanging day to day. I'm curious as to some method to my madness. I am starting to believe that I subconsciously collate and hang the exhibition as a whole, as I know which works I actually have in the gallery. The absence of Ruslan's paintings was a real stumbling block and the whole thing came together as soon as they arrived.

During this change of show we had the added complication of having to clear the back space to allow the art classes to run - so by Wednesday night, the back space was hung, rather badly, but nonetheless. Then it took 2.5 hours to clear the room and set it up for the watercolour lesson. It was easier the next night for the life drawing.

The sculpture garden project seems to be on hold as I haven't had time to respond to Cleve's e-mail now that he's finished Chelsea and I didn't forward the brief to Carol Cordrey. I've got an outline design in mind and need to draw it up for inclusion with the brief. I have written a draft brief...... time.

Tomorrow will be my first day off in two weeks - I'd worked until 11.00pm 4 days last week (not to mention the week before), then Saturday and we were open on Sunday as part of Teddington in Flower. This was wonderful and so many new people came. Teddington Society organise this to raise money for local charities with a variety of beautiful gardens opening to let visitors in, selling plants and refreshments. I'd bought too many strawberries and at 5.00pm we started giving them away in unopened boxes! I brought some back for the neighbour's children who were delighted (as well as my own who ate strawberries all week). Must get my quantities right, but waitrose did well out of me!. In terms of cost, the strawberries and Pimms formula is definitely up there as the most expensive way to hold a private view. I loved it though and drank more than my fair share which was dangerous as I was a very jolly curator. We had got our proportions wrong (1 to 1 instead of 1 to 3) and it was very good and strong pimms!! I'd approached marks and spencers to give us a deal on strawberries, but they decided to be a bit mean. Pimms had apparently spent their budget on these sorts of things and I have a great deal of lemonade sitting in the garden! Luckily, the beer never goes to waste. I was surprised and pleased to see the deputy Mayor and his wife on the day and several local councillors.

The great news is - apart from good sales in our first week - is that the Teddington Society want to give us an Award for enhancing Teddington! I was delighted and rather moved. It really is lovely to have a pat on the back when your intentions are good and the effort required is stretching to say the least. The truth is though, I do love it. I'm very pleased to have had the opportunity and feel that its the culmination of a variety of learnings and experiences that seemed directionless at the time. The gallery pulls them together in a way I never imagined. I don't know when the ceremony will be, but Baroness Hilton is to present the plaque! Even better, it lists the gallery and architecture:wk! Twice the accolade!

One niggling thing that has been on my mind; my very nice neighbours brought a friends of theirs who runs what seems to be a college gallery in Kingston. This lady asked if I had a list of my artists, which I did have for the wall to show sold works as they change and I said so. A little later I saw her taking this and putting it in her bag!! I'm not sure why - it was rather irritating, more because I'm not clear on the intentions rather than the taking of the list.

The next change now will be in September - August will be quiet, particularly as I'm also away for half of it. I had been in conversation with a lady who wanted me to show her father's work and was planning a mixed show partly based on "length of service" in art. I'm not sure about this, and neither the lady nor her father have been in touch and I do need to plan ahead. I've also been considering a People and places exhibition. This could be very good following the holiday season and several artists I'm working with now have work from their travels. I will start the search.

I get less chance on the computer these days partly because our home one has died. We're having some IT problems at the moment, but should hopefully be mostly resolved by the end of next week.

In the meantime, catching up with architectural work - some very nice projects and very nice people - so am delighted to get back into Revit and my love/hate relationship with it.

Note to self - must buy comfortable shoes! Standing up all day is so much more tiring in high heels!

20 june - i've uploaded some images during the change of show but can't quite see how to place them where i want them on this page! so apologies for the messy presentation.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Rough Guide to Curating an Excellent Gallery

Fragile Landscape is up and running and doing rather well.  We've had good sales and good visitors - almost always a pleasure to talk to.  They're starting to come from far afield to visit - Reigate, Midlands, Windsor and even Kensington! It's wonderful.  

The exhibition is rather short - I guess its Rule no. 6 (or 7? or is 8?) - 6 weeks is too short; no sooner have you finished hanging the show and got the hang of speaking fluently about each artist and artwork than you have to change again.  As it stands I'm now running a little late in issuing the invitations - partly because of late input, partly because of "too much to do".  This brings me onto the issue of inforamtion about how to run a gallery - not a "shope" type but a gallery that means to be a patron in the very best sense.  To serve art, artists and the community around it.  When I knew I was going to do this I looked for easily accessible inforamtion but there is a dearth of relevant literature about the art of curating. Of course, there are degree courses - none that can be done in a fortnight.  So this blog is becoming something of a Rough Guide to Curating an Excellent Gallery.   

It is worth noting that I haven't stuck hard and fast to all my rules so far and some are becoming more rubberised than others.  But I do think that Rule no. 7 (8 or 9?) is that you must spend time doing the jobs you intend to employ others to do later on.   It is the only way in a new venture to know exactly what to look for in CV terms.  At the moment these are the staff I need (and that's just for the gallery - don't mention the other business);
  1. Saturday and weekday sales assistant.  Someone knowledgeable about art, not patronising, charming with people, easy to talk to (people seem afraid of being condescended to in a galelry) and who is good with technology - credit card payments, computer invoices etc.  They also need to be fit enough to prepare artworks for collection or delivery and getting up ladders to get them.  During the week this person may end up twiddling their thumbs a little so other duties should be added to the job description.
  2. Graphic designer - for posters, invitations, adverts and the website as well as the labels for each change of exhibition.   
  3. Curator - someone who spends the time looking for artists (its tricky this one as I always want to have last say on this even if someone else is doing it), contacting them, sending through agreements, arranging to see the artwork, agreeing which pieces, discussing wall prices and programming the path of the next exhibition.  This will include co-ordinating with the graphic designer to provide timely images for the literature and website.
  4. As we're launching the arts programme there needs to be a co-ordinator and publicit.  This is pretty full on and whist it may be possible for one candidate to fit all of the above requirements, it may be that this is a second person's job.
  5. Not mentioning cleaner - preferably daily.
  6. Not mentioning janitor for preparing for each class and locking up afterwards (so local) and then clearing up the next day.
A few interesting people have been in the gallery offering their services but each lacks something which is a shame as I like several of them and each could do part of the job. 

I'm also trying to get together the brief for the sculpture competition - more anon.  This requires more admin time and I will need to prepare a draft brief for discussion with Carol Cordrey of The Richmond Magazine.

All very exciting.  Just requires time.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Website updating and Life Drawing Classes

I started uploading the website around 5.00pm today. Its now 9.19pm. Some issue with needing to upload it twice so that it shows up as it should in both Google Chrome and Internet Explorer. Google Chrome is so much better and faster that I no longer check Explorer. That is until Steve Capper told me that one of the images on his web page is not his work.

So, am utterly exhausted now and I really just want to go home but having started I really need to finish. Its been saying 59 minutes left for such a long time now! I'm starting to wonder whether its worth having a website at all - quite a few galleries in the area don't seem to have any web presence at all. It is important for the artists and new artists to be able to see what other work is being exhibited so I think it is important. There must be an easier way though!

As I'm here I thought I would post the news on the life drawing classes on Monday - first of the Thursday sessions will start tomorrow. Patricia opened the sessions with her class on Monday night and there were three students and one model. Everyone was a little nervous, but all really lovely. By the middle of the session they had bonded very well and I felt a little out of place having a tea break with everyone. I should probably join in the classes. By the end of the session everyone was glowing - teacher, model and students. I think that they really enjoyed it and it was a great success. The reading room at the back (which I should probably rename as the Drawing Room now) is a lovely environment for the class - very calm and comforting. Angela's work is wondeful and she clearly doesn't need the tuition and is attending to be supportive. Jackie and Jim's work came on wonderfuly within the course of the session - you could see a marked improvement.

I'm looking forward to Lee's sessions tomorrow. I just need organise keys and access so that I don't have to be here until 10.00pm each night.

I'll try and get some photos for the website.

As the current exhibition is quite short and we're aiming to coincide with the Borough in Bloom festival, I've started organising the new exhibition and e-mailing all the artists to obtain the images for the website! Yep. Start again.

Tomorrow is going to be very busy; I'm receiving some very exciting work from Anne in Australia which is going to be the highlight of my day. I'm also in communication with a fantastic Lithuanian artist who is looking for representation in the UK. His work looks wonderful - even online. It seems to have resonance with Van Gogh's brush strokes, but without the madness which I think can be read into VVG's work. Let's see - they will organise delivery soon.

The next exhibition will be very mixed again which seemed to work well last time. There is a plethora of artists contacting me - not all of them a pleasure to deal with. One woman who wants us to show her father's work turned up at the gallery last week to request that I go to her house there and then to view the work. Not Possible! I arranged a meeting and she was rather ratty about it. On the arranged date, another artist turned up rather earlier than expected so I called to say I would be delayed and yet again she launched into me. I mentioned that I partly work with artists that I can get on with - there is no reason for our dealings to be stressful. We called later to rearrange the meeting which she accepted then later she dropped a letter saying that she had changed her mind and insulting me and the gallery in several ways that I shall not repeat. It is always the ones with the mediocre work that are difficult to deal with. Best avoided at all costs. I suppose this is rule no. 5.

Another interesting issue that's arisen is discounts. So we manage to make a sale in this economic climate, split the price with artist as we should and then we get enquiries into the discount. It's 50/50 that's it. I am starting to consider taking all the gallery costs - invitations, website, wine, glasses hire, organistion, assistance, rent, rates, heating, lighting, repainting the walls, storing packaging cleaning etc. and splitting the cost among each exhibiting artist instead of charging commission, which is far more risky as business plans go. As a student I used to think "...oh, those greedy art galleries" then you climb onto the other side and its a completely different story! Having said that, one of the sculptors I like working with did put forward a reasonable argument - they have to pay so much for the materials that a discount on their profit makes the work a non fee paying exercise. I need to set up a different agreement for sculptors - it does seem fair. Material costs are quite expensive especially for the bronzes and bronze resins.

So yesterday was slightly frustrating, but today was better and tomorrow better still. I'm excited about meeting Liz Knutt - quite renowned and a beautiful artist.

Yep. Website still uploading. Now its saying 48 minutes...... so perhaps for some photos of the current work. This image is Jon Adams work which is so wondeful in the flesh its mesmeric. He mixes his own paints which is very rare these days, but it explains the very lush colours - particularly blues and reds - that he gets. They really are unique.
I think I need to cancel the upload - it is now saying 55 minutes. I need to go home. I have another late night tomorrow and a very busy day ahead.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Fragile Landscape - our third exhibition

New rule no. 3 - don't speak to anyone, don't answer the phone and don't open the doors to the gallery during change of exhibition week.  It will, simply, drive you mad.  

The number of people who call to offer us IT services, accounting services, alarm systems, insurances and changes to our energy supply is just ridiculous.  Why anyone would bother I don't know - if I wanted any of these services I would simply find them for myself.  That is why God invented Google!.  The man from the accounting company asked to speak to Sam Kamleh, when I said that Sam was not available and we already had an accountant we were happy with, he said "....but I have already spoken to Mr Sam and he said he was interested".  Caught out the little so and so.  Perhaps it isn't fair to pretend to be my own Secretary, but serves the sexist toads right for presuming that if you're a woman you must be the totty and not the top dog! 

I've become quite sharp with them which I don't like to do because of my brother in law who does a similar job.  Hey ho.  Someone has to take the stress and its best that the phone sales people do - why pay for a therapist when you can be cured on their phone bill? 

Now to the Fragile Landscape exhibition.  The private view was great and very busy, I'm delighted to report.  I always see it as a nice social evening and was delighted that we had some sales on the night.  Martin Goold's work sold very well and so did Alistair Tucker's.   

Sue Knight's exquisite Fragile Landscapes paintings are just wonderful and look amazing in the space.  Combined with Miles Bodimeade's Lycanthropy sculptures the gallery looked like it had been lifted from Cork Street (in its hay day).  Teddington IS the new Cork Street!
There is such a high standard of work in this exhibition that it really does set the tone for the gallery's future.  Suchi Chidambaram had painted two new paintings especially for this exhibition and they are wonderful.  Others had been on show at The Royal Academy Summer Show 2007.   I'm delighted with all the work and rather honoured that these wonderful emerging and established artists want to exhibit at the architect's gallery.  

Getting everything up on the walls is entertaining.  I hadn't arranged time slots for artists collecting and delivering work, so at times it was like Clapham Junction and it might have been frustrating for artists who'd come a long way.  Richard Watkins and his friend Morgan helped move the steel hoops to the garden, Kate came all the way from Cumbria, Barry from Manchester, Sue's very large canvases needed a truck and Miles had come from Bath.  Alexander from Brighton and that's only some of them. Various works coming in and out, various works still at the gallery to be collected later some are still there but I'm not sure why.  Jon Adams fantastic works arrived on Friday morning requiring a reshuffle of the hanging.  Luckily, not only are they just beautiful they were also beautifully packaged, nicely framed and ready for hanging.  Whilst I like all the artists I'm working with one can't help the moments of irritation with them when we start having to string everything - its incredibly time consuming.  New rule no. 4 - state that we will charge for any works we have to string or prepare for hanging!  

Then there are the large works - I tried to hang Sue's by myself and although they are relatively light for their size, they're not designed for holding up with one arm whilst trying to get the hook in the other.  I also had to wear gloves and keep the bubble wrap on to avoid staining or damaging them.  The largest one could not have been done without Kurt.  Standing at the top of the tall ladder trying to get the hook in whilst I was on tip toe holding the other end up invited a goodly amount of expletives from Kurt - some more X-rated than others.  Nonetheless, the stretching was a good substitute for exercise and helped flatten my stomach for the evening.  

Without Kurt there is no way this exhibition would have come together on time - in fact, there are still labels missing on a few paintings and all of the sculptures.  Miles had to write them by hand at the Private View!   Kurt didn't stop picking up cardboard boxes and packages, clearing up the space, mopping the floor, ordering wine and glasses, clearing the garden, taking irritating phone calls, moving paintings up and down stairs, going to the shops for various missing bits and pieces helping with the hanging, helping Max Jacquard bring down the scarecrows from the window and then serving drinks and clearing at the Private View.  He didn't even swear that much and only lost his temper once or twice.  

Without Glenda though, the labels and biographies - which are incredibly time consuming - were not completed.  My beautiful friend Elizabeth Healey came to help but it's tricky to learn photoshop in 10 minutes.  I was delighted that she and Philip came to the do in the evening.  The actress and the poet - excellent duo.  You must watch her film real on

As for the Fire Poet I'm planning something interesting for him at the gallery.  More as the idea develops!
The opening then started with the children arriving with Mirka - my amazing nanny - to help with serving the drinks.  I carried on doing labels until my daughter called up "mummy the posh man who came last time is here"!.   So I decided to abandon the remaining labels and go and greet people as they arrived.  The posh gentleman was Councillor Martin Elenghorn - the design champion in the Borough - who has been very supportive of the gallery and I am delighted that he comes to the Private Views.  But as I am slightly in awe of his intellect I, of course, venture to sound like an ass every time I speak to him.  Of course, it isn't nice or decent to wish that someone would develop Alzheimer's just so that they would forget the idiotic things you said and now that I'm reading The Secret (again) I am making a conscious effort to only thing positive and loving things about myself and other people.

The week was made more special because of Suzanne's visit with her rather improved fiance.  They make a fantastic looking couple and the wedding is quite soon. I don't know who will look after the gallery on the day but am mentally assessing various candidates.  Suzanne is a former employee and a very good friend.  

So, now that Private View no. 3 is done and I only ache in two or three places I need to tidy up the labelling.  I tried to do this and to design a poster for our new external board on Saturday but it was very busy.  I must rearrange the set up so that we don't have the invoicing in one room and the card machine in another.   This would also help any future employees.    More tidying up next week when Kurt is there.  We do need someone else, but I haven't found them yet.  Several people have applied for positions with the architecture practice and with the gallery, but none that possesses all the skills necessary.  Some have been lovely ladies but the technology would probably be quite tricky, others are quite young and would not be appropriate sales people for the gallery. Others are skilled in some areas but don't know how to use design programmes or how to update the website.  As the architecture practice is now picking up we'll definitely need someone there and I would prefer to employ an architect - they tend to be better all rounders with skills in several software packages - than the many who have applied to the gallery because they "love art".  If only Vincent was here.

So, now for the preparation for exhibition no. 4 - the Summer Exhibition.  I already have a list and have contacted several of the artists and one has even delivered her work already!  Our invitation list is improving although its still a bit messy, and using the Post Office on line has helped us collate the postal list in one place.    

Next week also sees the start of the painting and life drawing classes.  At the moment it is largely defeating its objective and we're rather going backwards having underestimated the costs and the fees charged by life models.  So, we need to update the prices which is always a little awkward yet it has to be done for it to be a viable enterprise.  I have no doubt it will be.  All is in place - easels, space, screen, teachers, life models and the coffee is on order!  We have two students per night at the moment and our break-even is 8 per night. But, you can't move forward unless you take the first step, so step we must.  I'm very much looking forward to it - although for a while I'll need to be there late every night to lock up and clean up.  Eventually I'll arrange something else - probably with the teaching artist - to lock up.  It does make more sense. 

Its exciting and rather non stop.  We also have the sculpture competition to launch and I need to chase up Cleve West.   

All good things to come.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Updating the website and other ramblings

One of the things I didn't know how to do and wasn't counting on having to do was a constantly changing website! Now I do.

If you're trying to impress real web experts then the Excel version is simply not the way to do it.  But if you're looking for an easy to design, manage and update application that is, essentially, a publishable word document, then Publisher is pretty good.  

Having said that, it is still incredibly time consuming - particularly uploading the site.  My heart sinks when I copy and paste the files and the prognosis for the time it will take is 2 days and 13 minutes!  It doesn't, in fact, take that long - only about 2 hours and 13 minutes.  And the site gets larger and heavier with each change of exhibition.  Perhaps this is also why galleries limit the number of artists they exhibit - its easier than updating the website every five minutes! 

It is exciting though to see both the new works going on the site, and the marking up of sold works. There are some errors - if you want to proof read it and let me know of any I haven't spotted then visit and let me know.  

In the long term I will need someone else to do this - as well as to help with running the gallery on Saturdays.  Who I'm looking for is tricky - am I too much of a control freak to allow a professed self motivator to flourish? To be genuinely able to take the gallery to the next level I will need help - very good help.  Someone capable, effortful, thoughtful, organised, committed and presentable - as well as honest and decent.   Mostly, another me! Although they would also need to be fitter for the changing of the paintings on the walls and all the trips up and down the ladder.  

Now that GC has gone back to Italy, I also need help at the office`.  It does take a minimum of 3 people to run both businesses six days a week.  If you count the evening and weekend work - searching for artists and contacting them, writing the business plans, to do lists and the upcoming exhibitions, updating the website and preparing and issuing all the necessary paperwork - then on average I do around 80 hours a week at the moment.   All fine and good - I've never minded working hard, but I do owe some time to the little starlings who still call me mummy.  

So, change has got to happen.  I accept that this year is going to be a full-on investment in time terms.  Perhaps the children might look back and agree that it was worth it. I hope so.  For now, the gallery cannot pay a salary and only I'm willing to work for nothing.  So be it for what is becoming one of the most influential galleries in London.  (can you tell that I'm reading The Secret?).

In that regard, I contacted one of the most inspiring current artists in the US - RB - to see if he might be interested in having a UK gallery to represent him.  He is.  He asked if I pop over to NYC at all.  When I said that with two companies (I didn't mention the third - its largely paperwork for that one) and three small children, he felt he needed to check out the gallery.  But even renouned artists need galleries.  If not him, I'll continue on this tack.  Only one or two well known artists to begin with and still open up doors for promising new comers - like SC - she's wonderful and her work is mesmeric.  I have no doubts that she will do well. 

The next two weeks will be stressful and hectic with artists picking work and others delivering, some will remain for a while, taking all the work down and painting the walls and getting labels and biographies done.   There is a potential buyer interested in four different pieces from the current exhibition, so I need to let those artists know so that I can keep hold of these works.  Hanging is quite time consuming when I do have help - and this time, I'm not sure whether I will have any help at all.  It will come together - it always does, and the private views are always wonderful occasions.  I'm looking forward to showing MB's sculpture - it looks fantastic.  I want to buy virtually half of what I'm about to exhibit! including one by SD and one by SC.   At the same time, I'm organising the summer exhibition - there are many more artists showing in that one, again, presenting a varied show.  I must get the paperwork to those artists and finalise the list as more artists are coming forward and I could have too much work.

An angel contacted me regarding the art classes and not only is she wanting to sign up for the painting sessions, she also circulated the life drawing classes to her group of artists.  So now there is a great deal of interest.  This one has been a chicken and egg situation - you can't formalise matters with the artists/teachers until you have signed up students and then you find out that the artists cant' do the nights advertised! I'll launch it anyway and it will come together.  I'll order all the easles and stools on Tuesday.  The courses are part of the gallery's raison d'etre - to become a hub of the arts for the rather talented residents of teddington and to open up a formerly public venue (that had been not very public since 2000) and give back a creative and fruitful space back to my area.  It feels good! There is of course a secondary reason and that is to create a trickle of income that allows us to retain the Reading Room as part of the gallery rather than have to let it to a separate company.  It would be a shame to block the views to the garden and I have plans for opening that to the public as well.  I've been speaking to Cleve West about this - he's a wonderful landscape designer and rather decent man with a talented artist for a partner.  I hadn't heard of him before Carol Cordrey of The Richmond Magazine mentioned him, but now I don't come across anyone who doesn't know him.  Check out his website - his work is lovely (and there is an odd link with zimmer stewart again!) 

So, back to work next week - tonsilitis last week graced me with a couple of days off, for which I was rather grateful.  I feel good and prepared for the busy weeks ahead.