Monday, 18 October 2021

Henley business: The Bohun Gallery

Henley business: The Bohun Gallery

PATRICIA (Pat) Jordan Evans is the owner of the Bohun
Gallery in Henley, which she established in 1973. It has earned a national reputation as one of the leading galleries outside London exhibiting a variety of the most influential and progressive figures in 20th century British art and sculpture. Patricia is a member of the Society of London Art Dealers. She lives with her husband David Evans, a renowned maker of
harpsichords, in Ewelme.

Describe your business

The Bohun Gallery has been representing important British artists for more than 40 years. I never wanted to be known as a provincial art gallery. I’d come from the swinging London pop scene and we were ahead of our time in Henley, so I wanted a gallery that would focus on contemporary British art.

How many people does it employ?

Two — gallery manager Katie Newman, who has been with me for more than five years, and a part-time assistant who has done nearly 15 years’ service.

What did you do before you started this business?

When I was 20 I wanted to travel so I took a train to Venice, a boat to Yugoslavia, Corinth Canal, Crete, Cyprus, Israel and Beirut and flew to Kuwait where we caught a cargo ship going down the Persian Gulf and the east coast of Africa before arriving in Durban. There I worked for the charity rag at the University of Natal.

When I returned to England I worked as a fund-raiser for the then new charity Shelter. We were all young and full of energy and enthusiasm. I was there for four years and loved the whole dynamic experience. I learned so much.

When did you start your business?

In 1973 I was living in Reading. I really wanted to open a gallery but there was no way I could afford to do so in London, where I was born (Little Venice). As a result of my fund-raising activities, I had a good knowledge of the Home Counties, so I drove around lots of towns trying to decide the best location. When I got to Henley I thought it would be perfect, especially as I love being near water. The gallery opened originally on the corner of Station Road and Queen Street but we’ve been at our current location in Reading Road since 1987.

What was your objective?

To become a millionaire! However, I soon found out that was a lot easier said than done. It took years to simply break even and during that time I lived extremely frugally but I was determined not to give up.It takes time to develop credibility.

Who or what influenced you?

As I child, I was taken to museums and art galleries and when setting up my gallery visited the top commercial and public art galleries to train my eye. I was used to organising from my days planning fund-raising events for Shelter, so it wasn’t a huge jump to stage events around art.

Where is your market?

We have many collectors in and around Henley and in London and we pull people from all over the country. It depends on the artist that we are featuring.

How do you market your business?

Katie is a wiz at PR. She gets lots of articles in magazines and other publications. Bohun Gallery has a show every four weeks and we send out exhibition cards and emails to our customers to keep them informed.

What’s your biggest challenge?

To find new talented artists. It’s important to be alert to where the opportunities are. I travel a lot, so am always on the lookout.

How important are online sales?

People can buy from our website or over the phone, although we really love seeing people face-to-face. We also use the website as a catalogue.

How is your business doing compared with last year?

I’m pleased to say it’s doing well.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

Freedom. Being able to follow my own ideas.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?

Never to prejudge the people who visit.

What advice would you give someone starting a business?

Do lots of research and have a vision of where you are going. It will be tough, so believe in yourself. So many people give up too soon and don’t realise they could have been a great success.

How organised are you?

Quite, but I do sometimes have to make sure I finish what I’ve started as I’m always keen to move on to other things quickly.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?

I’m sure I’ve made lots of mistakes but nothing comes to mind, I very much live in the moment.

What’s the secret of your success?

Energy, excitement and drive.

How do you dress for work each day?

This is very important. For me it’s “art smart”.

What can’t you be without at work each day?

My iPhone, which means I can always be in touch and it takes great photos. I use it for train timetables and I use the maps app regularly.

Lunch at your desk or out?

I generally have lunch upstairs above the gallery.

Do you continue to study?

I keep up to date with what’s happening in the art world.

What do you read?

Biographies of early women adventurers, such as Gertrude Bell — they were fearless. Also books written by authors that have been nominated for, say, the Booker Prize as it introduces me to writers with different backgrounds. I also enjoy historical novels and stories set in different countries.

How are you planning for retirement?

I haven’t the faintest idea! I love what I do and I enjoy my collectors and my artists.

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