A Private View to Thrill

Our first IRL gallery experience of 2021

Walking up to Columbia Road, we could see the bobbing heads of what we can only assume is a crowd of people – honestly, it’s been so long so we were just guessing at this point, based on photos we’ve seen of life pre-2020. At long last, we were reunited with the excitable murmurs of socialising gallery-goers. A crowd of layered up Londoners stationed like the red carpet leading the way to the gallery door, all holding their welcome tin of ice-cold lager and spread out to let visitors weave safely to the door.

That’s right, we took one for the team and swapped our loungewear (pyjamas) for some more outdoor-and-event-appropriate activewear (loungewear); we went to our first REAL LIFE private view, just so we can report back to you on how our galleries are handling the transition from online to open. 

Outside Nelly Duff, Columbia Road, London

It’s so important (and fun) to support galleries as they open their doors for you, but it’s equally important to know you’re in safe hands. That’s why we’ve been keeping an eye out on new exhibitions coming to an Own Art gallery venue near you! Apologies for the 90s cinema advertisement reference there, but it was purely in an attempt to highlight that location now exists beyond the digital realm. It’s 2021 and we are raring to add some exhibits in the diary!

Zuleika Gallery joined the Own Art scheme in February this year and with two fantastic branches (one in Woodstock and one in London) we’re thrilled to see their real-life exhibitions coming up: Oxfordshire artists at Blenheim Palace, 17 May – 12 September 2021 and Stuart Hartley: Brave New World, 19 May – 14 June 2021.

If you’re in West Yorkshire, Sunny Bank Mills is opening their doors and inviting you to join them in Weaving in a Day: Cushion Covers, 29 May from 10am – 4pm. Or if you want to head more North, then BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art is exhibiting their BALTIC Open Submission from May until September. Here are just a few real-life exhibitions in the month of May 2021, but search our network of galleries to see who is local for a visit:

FLEDGE: A Year of Birds at Contemporary Six, until 23 May
An Intimate Distance at Rabley Gallery, Wiltshire, until 29 May 202
Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours 209th Exhibition at Mall Galleries, London, until 29 May
Anna Bussot & Gill Tyson at Resipole Studios, Argyll, until 21 May
MILQUETOAST by Bedwyr Williams at Southwark Park Galleries, London, until 11 July
Leonard Green ‘In Search of Northern Soul’ at ACE Arts, Somerton, until 19 June

To ensure your safety during reopening, galleries have clearly stated their COVID regulations on their websites. Usually, they will let you know what to expect during your visit, but keep a lookout for any changes in the run up to your booking, just in case!

RWA July 2020 Lisa Whiting

And to ensure your EXTRA safety, we personally tested out Nelly Duff’s private view RUN, Working Proofs for you to see how safe and COVID-friendly the new art world is.

TLDR: They’re COVID-safe, friendly and looking forward to seeing you! Just check their COVID rules and keep your mask and anti-bac to hand!

As expected, on arrival at Nelly Duff, the friendly and masked gallery staff trafficked a steady flow in and out of the gallery, with plenty of anti-bac to hand in case you didn’t pack enough yourself. If you haven’t visited Nelly Duff before, then 1) why? and 2) you’ll know that it is situated on the quaint and ever-popular Columbia Road; eight people in a room is like a house party. But this is made up for with their thrifty use of wall space to exhibit the fantastic range of original artworks for sale. 

The staircase can only access one at a time and this was the only point in the gallery where a bit of “to you – to me” was going on amongst the visitors (I have missed the awkwardly polite toing and froing of strangers passing in the stairs). RUN’s artwork was wonderfully portrayed in the exhibition space, with a diverse range of artwork media decorating the walls. To take in the amount of work the artist has created, as well as the story they were telling, was left to our devices as we manoeuvre around the room to maintain a steady flow and to ensure other visitors got the chance to step in and experience the exhibition themselves. Enthusiastic exhibition-goers are accustomed to the meandering dance of consideration as we strive to avoid the disruption of our neighbour’s experience, so it’s especially nice to be reintroduced to this familiar public behaviour we didn’t even know we missed.

I think it’s safe to say that for such a popular and intimate gallery space, they have offered the perfect taste of the new art world: creating a physically safe space for artists, events and art lovers alike.

Don’t miss out on your dream artwork and see if your local gallery offers Own Art – making art affordable with 10 interest-free monthly instalments.