VISITORS to the Newcastle Gateshead Art Fair at The Sage Gateshead this weekend will see lots of art for sale – and also get a sense of a creative industry in action.
Artists from across the North East will be selling paintings or sculptures, either individually or through the galleries that represent them.
The Jim Edwards Gallery, based in Byker, Newcastle, and Alan Reed Art, of Ponteland, Northumberland, are highly successful single artist operations.
Then there are the galleries that represent several artists, such as Haslam’s of Hallgate in Hexham, the Tallantyre Gallery in Morpeth, the Balman Gallery in Corbridge and the Blagdon Gallery at the Milkhope Centre on the very outskirts of Newcastle.
Exhibitors range from the fiercely commercial, such as the Whitewalls Galleries and the Castle Galleries, which add an appealing splash of colour to prime city centre locations, to the Globe Gallery – recently relocated to an old bank at Blandford Square – where contemporary art goes hand-in-hand with a commitment to community involvement.
Online activity is very much a feature of the modern art world, but that doesn’t mean an art fair doesn’t matter to those who do business via the internet.
Emma McMillan, 25, set up her business, Gallereo, last year after returning from New York, where she was studying for an MA with Christie’s, the auction house.
Originally from Wallsend, North Tyneside, Emma studied art history at Northumbria University before heading off to New York where, as part of her course work, she was sent out to identify the next big thing, scouting around the many art galleries of the city.
There she alighted on the work of Dutch artist Hans Meertens, whose vibrant paintings seem to owe a lot to the influence of graphic novels and street art. Emma wrote an article in praise of the artist’s work and he subsequently contacted her and asked if she would write a piece for a book about him.
“His work was among the most original that I saw at that time,” she explains. “There was a lot of stuff where artists seemed to have been mimicking other work that had been successful. But he was being picked up by the newspapers and some of the art magazines.”
Eventually, Emma came home and started applying for jobs – without much success. But she did get some freelance work with software companies, and it led her to the idea of Gallereo. The business offers artists and photographers help with establishing an efficient and attractive website at a cost – after a 30-day free trial – of £4.99 per month.
So far, says Emma, who runs the enterprise from her home, Gallereo has worked with around 400 artists.
With some of them, she works more closely than with others, seeking opportunities for them to further their careers. Unofficially, she is the UK representative of Hans Meertens, who now has admirers around the world.
Some of his paintings will be among those on the Gallereo stand at NewcastleGateshead Art Fair.
There is no emerging artists section at this year’s Art Fair because funding from the Arts Council was not forthcoming.
But some artists who benefited from that last year are going alone this time. Some of the artist-run enterprises based at The Shed, a new creative hub in Gateshead, will have three stands.
Gateshead artist Corinne Lewis set up Powder Butterfly, subtitled “the wearable art company”, at The Shed after her success at last year’s Art Fair. She will be selling a new range of jewellery pieces inspired by The Angel of the North and her proficiency as a photographer of the things you can only see under a microscope. Rednile and Living Fossils are the other Shed-based enterprises you will find at the Art Fair. Being part of such a well-respected event is something that residents at The Shed need and seek out,” they say. “To meet directly with established and future clients from the public, local and national galleries and corporate clients, the Art Fair provides a melting pot of opportunity that every small business needs, especially in the current economic climate.”
A special NewcastleGateshead Art Fair supplement will be published in The Journal tomorrow. For more on the event, which runs from Friday to Sunday, see www.ngartfair.com