The definition of ‘gallery space’ is changing



Growing up with such a welcoming gallery on my doorstep (that’d be Falmouth Art Gallery), I never developed the notion that art is high culture and a gallery is an elitist institution. It was just a place, a community space, with some beautiful and interesting things on the walls.


I think the first time I realised that that isn’t necessarily the way everyone thought was when I went to university (late, I know; but I grew up in Cornwall and as wonderful as it is, it can also be a bubble without a fully developed world view). The typical York university History of Art undergrad was the subject of jokes referring to our lazy poshness (“why do History of Art students dress so well?” “because they have the time and money”) and admittedly, our (rare) lectures were basically attended by a sea of female Withnails.


I was about to write ‘a sea of female Withnails, albeit less drunk,’ but if you stepped into the aptly-named-for-this-post-at-least Gallery club on a Thursday, I think you’d have seen mass misspent youth that Withnail would have admired.


Anywho, I see art as a tool for the community. I’m not alone, but I wouldn’t say that’s the standard school of thought for many who feel outside it. It’s not the art that needs to change; we’re in an age where artists are celebrities, which is testament to the fact that they have something to say that the general public wants to hear. It’s gallery culture that needs to change.


And changing it is. I recently went to the opening of an amazing photography exhibition at Heist, a gallery that started out life online before moving into its unconventional residential (yes, residential) space near Notting Hill. The premise is this: you walk into what feels like someone’s extremely well-curated home and experience the artworks in a far more intimate setting. There are rooms with just one or two pieces; and there are rooms that are overflowing. In the current exhibition, The Road to Elysium (open until January 12th 2015), they’ve balanced it perfectly. I’ve included some of the whimsical works in this post, but you’ll have to pay a visit to experience the other-worldly home-gallery the Heist team has created. As a commercial gallery, from their point of view, it’ll help buyers envision the artworks in their home. From mine, it’s a step away from traditional gallery culture; something that was in desperate need of a refresh.


At this point, I’d like to point out that putting a gallery behind a locked, not just closed, door may seem at odds with my Utopian idea of accessible art. But galleries like Heist et al are doing something that hasn’t been done before, and it is this innovative (oh God, I hate that word) attitude that will inspire other gallerists to explore avenues that display art in a new, exciting and attention-grabbing way.



And you know what? For galleries that care about communicating an idea to the public, I think there’s a lot to be learned from street art.


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