Saturday, 26 September 2020

‘Town for art lovers’ with opening of new gallery

‘Town for art lovers’ with opening of new gallery

A NEW art gallery will be opening in Henley tomorrow (Saturday).

A soft launch will be held from 10am to 5pm at Henley Fine Art Gallery, which replaces the former Louise Claire Millinery in Market Place.

Louise Walton left the town after 15 months in September 2016, saying there was too much uncertainty over the development of Market Place Mews.

Since then, the unit has only been used for pop-up businesses and as an office space for Catalyst Capital, which is carrying out the development.

The new gallery will be run by the owners of Barnes Fine Art Gallery in London and it will stock hundreds of paintings, which people can try out in their homes for free before purchasing them.

Jennie Stuart-Smith, the gallery owner, will divide her time equally between the two locations and has recruited Lee Dixon as the gallery manager.

She said: “I was in Henley on Monday and the town has already taken to us. It was the first time we closed our London gallery and we were putting the final bits and pieces together.

“We sell big landscape pieces and we are confident in allowing people to borrow them.

“As well as bringing beautiful colour and atmosphere, it can really open up a room. We will always have something beautiful for people to look at.

“We have hundreds of beautiful paintings available to try free of charge and we are experts at leading clients through the process of discovering and finding the perfect piece or pieces.

“We blend the tastes of the household and bring the joy and uplifting sense of happiness and contentment that beautiful artwork generates in a home.

“Lee is doing two days and I am doing the same and we hope to have someone else start with us soon to allow us to open on weekends. It is a really good opportunity to get this location.”

Mrs Stuart-Smith says she chose to expand into Henley because she has friends who live locally and she is confident local people will welcome the new business.

The gallery will also offer a framing service, with a free consultation and quote.

It will be open on Tuesday and Saturday from 10am to 5pm, Wednesday from 10am to 8pm and Sunday from 11am to 4pm.

Mrs Stuart-Smith lives in Barnes with her husband Simon, a physics teacher, and their children Isobel, 18, and Thomas, 17.

She is not worried about the prospect of opening the gallery in the middle of a pandemic, as she feels people are spending more money on art this year.

She added: “We only opened our Barnes gallery in October and people have completely taken to us into their hearts. We have done so well there and it has allowed us to think about a second location.

“Having the friends that I have in Henley, I thought it would be a similar crowd and I was looking for a new location because of how well we have been doing.

“People aren’t able to go on holiday this year and we are seeing that they are looking to put something beautiful in their homes to brighten up their lives.

“It is a very challenging time. When we closed our London gallery, we changed the windows every day to give people something new to look at and it is important to be involved as much as possible with the community.

“We aren’t worried – fortune favours the brave. My daughter is off to university and my son is doing his A-levels next year. I see this as an opportunity to throw myself into the new gallery and you only get one shot at things like this in your life.”

The gallery will feature work from 22 artists, who are mostly based in the UK and produce landscape fine art.

Exhibitions have not been held at the Barnes gallery, but Mrs Stuart-Smith says she would be open to the idea of starting them in Henley.

Customers will be asked to follow social distancing rules when they visit the gallery and numbers will be managed if necessary.

Helen Barnett, town and community manager, said: “I have been talking to her for a while about coming to Henley. She thinks that Henley fits her profile very well.

“We have a lot of units under offer at the moment, which are being turned into very interesting destinations. When you look at a lot of towns in the current challenging situation, there are a lot of empty shops, but we are generating a lot of interest from destination retailers and galleries.

“The state of retail is changing and it is more about experience shopping and having a lovely time when you come to Henley. It is becoming a place for people who are interested in art, which I think is a really good thing.

“The unit has been used by Creative Duck for a lot of pop-up events and we had the Brownies doing Christmas activities in there. Catalyst have been generous in allowing the town to use it for community events and now they’ve been persuaded to have a shop there.”

 

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