Art angel of the North
“The thing we wanted to do more than anything,” says Richard Hindle, owner of Darlington contemporary gallery Gallerina, “was prove that the level of work we’re lucky enough to represent is for everybody and not simply a privileged few. We want to make everything accessible and affordable to everyone who visits the gallery.”
Gallerina is in its twentieth year of selling original contemporary fine art from its premises in the County Durham town. When Richard, who had a background as a photographer and picture framer, opened Gallerina, his neighbours were quick to tell him “it won’t work, and certainly not in this town”.
But the art evangelist – with an ‘if you build it, they will come’ mindset – was confident of attracting customers from his home town and region. In his words: “Looking back, I was naïve. I thought if I was excited, I was in with at least a chance of enthusing others. Our wonderful clients have proved us right.”
Now, having survived and thrived for two decades, his customers are, in the most, from the surrounding area. “We have had cause to send pieces internationally, but usually our clients have local links. I do like the fact that we sell mainly to the North East, because as champions of our region and of artists based in our region, we’re incredibly fortunate to show the works we have and it’s exciting that they stay in the North East.”
Five North East artists to watch
James Patterson: A commission from Ray-Ban in Paris – alongside exceptional gallery sales – outline why this young and exciting artist has gone from strength to strength. We are very proud of him and excited for his future.
Paul Denham: A quiet and gentle man who produces equally quiet landscape paintings. His pieces are the perfect antidote to a busy modern world, they have the power to slow you down after a stressful day.
Mark Johnston: This incredible land and seascape painter is filled in life with the same energy as his stunning works in oil – these images are a dance, and he’s an incredible and intuitive mark maker.
Gary Crozier: Beautiful, ethereal and with a little bit of an edge are how I’d describe the stunningly realised figurative works by this very talented painter and digital artist. His gallery work is always high in demand.
Graham Vasey: Graham’s beautiful works have the ability to pick you up and take you somewhere else. Graham combines his mediums tradition with a contemporary edge – using Victorian technology to capture the image and his own chemistry.
In the early days of the gallery, Richard remembers selling signed works by Banksy for a few hundred pounds each. He reports that young customers have sold on some pieces they bought in the early years and used the money to buy houses or start businesses. Now, as then, Gallerina mixes the work of established artists and those that are up-and-coming. “Keeping it exciting is very important”, he says. “Whether home grown or not, fresh talent is important.”
“We source every which way you could imagine. We are regularly approached by artists, or we’re out and about visiting shows and exhibitions. Wherever we happen to be we are always busy looking for something new: we can’t help it, it’s what we love. Your eyes are open all the time. One of our newest finds was an accident, visiting a mixed exhibition – we spotted something and since then that artist has sold very well for us and not looked back.”
Gallerina moved premises just over a year ago, with Richard saying: “Our town centre – like many other town centres – is changing shape. The right location became available, and we hopped across our town in a reaction to people’s changing shopping habits.
We’re now on the edge of the town centre facing a busy main road and supermarket, with a much improved parking offer, including a car park of our own – all of which is so important. Parking is one of the big issues here. It’s also meant we’ve met a lot of new people, who didn’t know we were tucked away in the old town. We are a destination, and we wanted people to find it easier to find us.”
The move meant Gallerina buying their own building. For the mortgage, Richard says “we only thought of going to Barclays, because we just trust them. We feel lucky and looked after.” He adds: “Over the years there have been little loans and products that allow us to use our money sensibly, although we’ve not relied heavily on that.
But if we have ideas, we know we can chat about them with the bank and we feel that they’re there in support of what we’re trying to do. Because of a relationship that’s developed over 20 years, they have a real understanding of what we do and how we do what we do, and they’ve got our back.”