Bell Fine Art in Winchester, UK
This week’s art news: Galleries must evolve
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Even art galleries have to evolve to survive whether they are in Canada or the United Kingdom.
That’s the view of Lawson Bell, owner of Bell Fine Art in Winchester, UK who says that embracing new talent has helped his business survive when others have been forced to close.
For the past 25 years Bell Fine Art, has been trading from Parchment Street in the historic city of Winchester in the county of Hampshire and in that time interest in antique paintings has plummeted as buyers increasingly prefer contemporary work.
“We have had to move with the times,” says Mr Bell, whose parents established the gallery in nearby Alresford in 1977. “In 1987, 90 per cent of my sales were Victorian masters with the remainder being made up of contemporary originals. Today, just five per cent of my sales are antique paintings and 95 per cent are contemporary originals.
“People will happily spend £2,000 on a contemporary painting but there are so few about that would do that on an antique one. I exhibit at the affordable art fairs and at the one in Bristol recently I was mildly surprised to see customers in their 50s and 60s buying contemporary work – 20 years ago they would have bought antique works.”
Another change has been that customers are no longer interested in purchasing posters and getting them framed. “This was big business in the early days,” recalls Mr Bell. “We used to devote the whole of the ground floor to posters where customers could browse through folders of them at their leisure and then we would frame them up. That market has all but disappeared and so we just carry a couple of catalogues now.”
Bell Fine Art represents 50 artists and employs four staff including two full-time picture framers.
Image: Bell Fine Art photo
Caption: From left to right: Greg Lane, picture framer, Ian Jeffcott, head picture framer, Carla Vize-Martin, gallery assistant and Liz Daruvalla, gallery manager