this post is likely to be on the brief and nonsensical side. The idea originated with my friend Emily who lives just across the road from said gallery. She attended one of my previous shows back in early 2018 and suggested that I exhibit here. I didn't think much of it at the time but the idea gained traction and was taken up in full force in my father.
The booking went in then in November 2018 and at the same time I embarked on a series of paintings of local scenes especially for the show. These have pretty much occupied my painting time from then until a couple of weeks ago. We claimed the keys on Wednesday night and with the help of Millie, an A level art student who lives next doors to my parents (and has been acting as my Curator) hung up the show. She was very useful. Always have someone with a good eye who is not personally invested in your work to help with such things.
We went for having a large painting in the window to attract people in and immediately the two largest paintings on either side (above left). These were also the most expensive to anchor people's price point. Then paintings were arranged by subject matter. London on the right and Henley on the left. At the back (above right) a quartet of paintings from the north of England, the flower still lives and then off camera the rock still lives.
The gallery is an excellent space as you can see from above. It is light and airy, lit both from windows at the front and back and by skylights. There are also well positioned skylights. There is plenty of hanging space and a pre-installed hanging system with adjustable wires and hooks that simplifies the whole process enormously. There is also a little kitchen with fridge and kettle, and a decent loo. It comes with plenty of furniture.
Its main downfall, and this is often the case with municipal galleries, is its location. It is situation behind the town hall, away from the main foot traffic. You do not then get much in the way of passing trade. This is common and inevitable with such galleries though. If they were well located they would have long been sold as shops. Advertising then is key. I have been promoting this extensively and we have also been using the event as an excuse to reunite with family and friends. Ensuring then a fair flow through of people.
I also contacted the Henley Standard. They seemed interested and asked for a few pictures and there was also a telephone interview. i was expecting perhaps a small mention and was both gratified and pleased to get a near full page spread (see above and the link). This caused at least a few more people to attend.
I was one-upped in fairly short order when my wife was mentioned in the Financial Times, a day later.
My other cunning plan was to have a red dot in place right from the start. So I told my Curator to choose a painting that she could then keep. She choose the one above left. Turns out she drew up in East London and always liked the gas holders. The co-incidences mounted when her dad came in to see the show and said that her mum had proposed to him in the white building at the right near the bridge. An excellent story.
The Thursday was, well nearly dead. Few people came in and we sold nothing. Friday was allot quieter and-we had many visitors including a few dogs (above right). Sold 4 paintings on that day.
My favourite painting and the first to sell was Regent's Canal at Dusk (above left). It is always the way at shows that there are a few paintings you could sell many times over and this was one.
My first painting to sell to someone I didn't already know was the approach to Henley (above right). A gentleman appeared on the bench outside the gallery. I chatted to him and stroked his dog. He re-appeared on the Saturday so I offered him a glass of prosseco. As a result of this he came into the gallery. So did his wife. They had been married in Henley church so they bought the painting. They were lovely paintings.
I have learnt a few things thought. 1) opening on Thursday was pointless we could have hired the gallery a day later and set up on Thursday. 2) Staying open until 1800 is pointless. It pretty much dries up after 1600 - 16:30. It's a long day and exhausting so we have closed at 17:00 everyday. This means we did miss one couple who turned up at 17:10 on Saturday so the lesson here- be more realistic in your opening hours. 3) More big posters, preferably in stand alone form to lead people up from the town.
This means that we will probably start taking down the show at 14:00 on Tuesday. If then you want to see it, come before then. It's been a lot of fun though and I got to meet some lovely people. The best people come either on motor-bikes or with dogs.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.