Welcome back.

Exhibitions!  I want to talk about exhibitions!

Sorry to get so excited but there is a lot to get excited about. The opportunity to host exhibitions was, and is, a core ingredient of the gallery and the reason Cupola is not just a ‘shop’.  I don’t mind people calling the gallery a ‘shop’ as selling things is how the business survives, but without the exhibitions, which are often not cost effective, I honestly would not bother to carry on. Exhibitions are the icing on the cake for me, and anyone that knows me, knows that I do have a tendency to eat the icing in preference to the cake 🙂

However, when I set up the gallery I had scant experience of putting on exhibitions; I had put up my degree show and held a one off event in a flat above a butchers shop; I didn’t really have a clue.  However, you have to start somewhere and now was the time to get stuck right in!

My very first exhibition was a group show – no theme, just a collection of work gathered from whoever I could convince to let me have work.  I’d visited studios, talked to artists and gathered an exhibition together.  It was a start.  There was good work and it was varied. It is this variety that has become the hallmark of Cupola in many ways.  It was an interesting experience too, talking to artists and asking them to show work in an unknown gallery, in what many considered an odd location, run by a 23 year old recent art graduate with no experience.

An artist recently, for my 2oth anniversary year, very candidly recalled her reaction to being asked by me to submit work to the gallery all those years ago.  She said she had rejected my request in a fairly dismissive manner, but later, having visited the gallery and seen work on exhibition by the now extremely well known potter/artist, Edmund De Waal, changed her mind.  Edmund exhibited with Cupola on a number of occasions before he moved out of Sheffield and down to London.  In fact, my mother in law still has three of his pieces, unlike me, who managed to break the coffee pot I had.  I believe they still have the prices on the bottom £16.50 on each vessel and £38 for the jug.  Not likely to get any of Edmund’s pieces for the price now!!

 

Edmund De Waal's Atmosphere at the Turner Contemporary 2015

Edmund De Waal’s Atmosphere at the Turner Contemporary 2015

Edmund De Waal talking about his work at the Turner Contemporary.

Edmund De Waal talking about his work at the Turner Contemporary.

Edmund doesn’t seem to have changed much by the looks of this picture.  Just like me I’m sure lol!

It was only really after my wonderful mentoring experience from David Butterfield (see earlier post) within a few months of opening that really helped me get my exhibition programme off the ground.  And once a structure was in place, I was off!  I never thought of myself as a ‘curator’ at the time and don’t really think that of myself even now.  It is the correct term I’m sure, but I think of myself simply as someone who tries to host interesting, thoughtful, exciting and importantly for me, engaging exhibitions.

Suffice to say, I have had, over the years, exhibitions of every conceivable type including:

  • solo shows
  • two person shows
  • painting
  • sculpture
  • printmaking
  • glass
  • textiles
  • fashion
  • jewellery
  • photography
  • furniture
  • performance
  • dance
  • poetry
  • comedy
  • music
  • installation
  • multimedia

Plus literally, by now, hundreds of themed exhibitions exploring politics, colour, gender, humour, nature, scale, process, light, time, religion, myth & legend, identity, recycling etc – the list goes on.

An example of a fairly early quarterly schedule detailing three upcoming exhibitions.

An example of a fairly early quarterly schedule detailing three upcoming exhibitions.

Oh look!  I found a picture from the time of ‘THAT’ fashion show.  Here he is…my boy in a bikini!  Richard whitely (Yorkshire TV) SO missed out on this one (again see earlier post).

Models for the Fashion show held at Cupola in 1993.

Models for the Fashion show held at Cupola in 1993.

After a bit of a rummage, I have found some early photos but it is hard to remember quite what happened when, as I am happy to admit I wasn’t exactly ‘systems woman’ in the early years.

I know this was an early exhibition as it was my friend Shaeron Caton Rose – previously Shaeron Hill, who had kindly helped me in those early years.

Solo show by Shaeron Caton Rose in the early years of Cupola.

Solo show by Shaeron Caton Rose in the early years of Cupola.

This was a pretty early show too – Lyn Hodnett (painting and printmaking) and Hanne Westergaard (ceramics).  Both these artists are still represented by the gallery.

Two person exhibition by Lyn Hodnett & Hanne Westergaard.

Two person exhibition by Lyn Hodnett & Hanne Westergaard.

I know this was an early exhibition partly because at this point the door to the gallery was still an entrance and the frame and window ledges were still plain varnished wood.  They have been white for a number of years now. In addition the floor was re-covered many years ago making it impossible to gain entrance to the gallery through the door you can see in the shot.

In the early years the gallery only consisted of the two downstairs rooms and so it was essential that I made best use of the space and therefore often the exhibitions were ‘busy’ with many images on each wall  and sculpture or ceramics or other 3D work displayed on plinths as well as directly on the floor.  This is not always appropriate for all types of work but an engaging atmosphere was always really important to me and it was very clear that most people preferred the ‘feel’ of a busier space.  They had to come in just to be able to have a good look at everything and to see what was lurking around corners.  Luring people in has also become a Cupola speciality!

This is a shot of how busy some of my shelves sometimes became at that time, although not in the main dedicated exhibition space I hasten to add.  I think this must have been around Christmas time as these shelves seem especially tightly packed – I was really cramming it in then!  But, you know what?  I sold a lot of things!  People loved it.  The gallery is still busy now, but not like this as there is much more room to display works with more breathing space which allows each piece to really shine!

Displays in the gallery main entrance room in the early years.

Displays in the gallery main entrance room in the early years.

By the way I commissioned an artist, Simon I think his name was, to design and make that domed cabinet in the top picture as I felt there should be at least one ‘Cupola’ shape in the gallery.  A number of years later this cabinet actually fell off the wall and landed on a helper, but that’s another story…..

Although I have many many more pictures to share with you I shall leave you now with a quote from one of my customers from ‘the early years’.  She said:

“I like buying things from you as I feel I’m rescuing them.  They are always competing with so many other things that when I take them home I feel I have just made them that little bit more special.”

A photo of me back in the early 1991 or 1992.  What a jacket!

A photo of me back in early 1991 or 1992. What a jacket!

In the next post, rather than trying to find some of the earliest exhibitions I’ll talk a little about some of my favourites, the list of which keeps growing!

Speak soon and thanks for reading,

K x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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