Ceri Hand is a curator, commissioner, producer and publisher within the visual arts. She is setting up a commercial gallery in Liverpool which will open on 4 July 2008. She aims to give emerging and established artists the opportunity to develop their practice both within the gallery and beyond.
Ceri will be keeping this blog to describe her thoughts and feelings in the run-up to opening this new gallery.
Ceri Hand reveals her favourite gallery, worst comment about her work, and more, in our quick questionnaire.
26 May 2008
It's hard to believe the day has arrived - tomorrow I move into the office at 12 Cotton Street, L3 7DY, my new gallery in Liverpool. It's been a relatively short journey (Nov 07 - May 08) thanks to the help of some really key people and supporters - my investors, my landlord, my partner, Uniform design agency and October Communications PR agency, and a professional development grant from the Arts Council.
The grant in Nov 07 enabled me to spend three months researching UK wide, speaking to over 200 artists, gallerists, curators and potential collectors in the North West and beyond. This research, along with researching spaces in Liverpool, convinced me it was a good idea to set up Liverpool's first commercial art gallery in 2008, the year Liverpool holds the title of European Capital of Culture.
My investors enabled me to totally focus on setting up the business and since leaving my post as Director of Metal in November, I have only done a few days consultancy work to help pay the mortgage. I initially went freelance and just recently have set up Ceri Hand Gallery Ltd.
Thankfully tomorrow I have an intern starting, Lucy Johnston, who will be working with me as Gallery Assistant for 6 months, with a view to me employing her at the end of this period, all things going well. I interviewed seven great people who would all have been great, but Lucy's recent exhibition at 45 Hope Street and the fact she raised some ACE funding to make it happen impressed me enormously, along with her internship with the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice. I'm really looking forward to starting out with such a dynamic young woman who can teach me a few things too!
27 May 2008
It's been a crazy week getting to this stage, with hand sanding floors on my knees, painting walls and cleaning urinals, mixed in with proofing the brochure, designing a bespoke database, October Communications securing us some champagne sponsorship (from Kingdom bar in Liverpool!), approving the fabric for a bespoke settee kindly being made by Aura designs (it's gorgeous!), approving S Mark Gubb's special multiple he's making for the launch as a free gift from the gallery, meeting Clare Chang from Business Link regarding funding and support for my new business start up, meeting Paul Ledsham from Step Clever re the same, communicating with all the artists re the opening show (These Living Walls of Jet), investigating shipping, having lunch with artists Al & Al and curator Bryony Bond…it's been 10 or 12 hour days every day for a good few months now.
The gallery, pictured, is 150 square metres and has really great light, thanks to my landlord's vision - he was the one who thought that putting a mezzanine floor into this giant warehouse & making a gallery out of the top section would work. He's been amazing, getting a whole team on board to put in steel structure to build the floor from, making a floor, putting in a staircase, sandblasting the walls then painting them white, building the office with storage space on top, fitting windows, putting in a sink, a fridge even…and he's triply amazing in that he's agreed to keep my rent & rates low for as long as I want it. God bless him - he's a real diamond and is as proud of what he's achieved as I am.
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Transformed: the Ceri Hand Gallery
28 May 2008
My favourite part has been meeting and spending time with artists. I've travelled the country visiting artists in their studios and feel pretty lucky to now have ten great artists I'll be representing for starters: Matthew Houlding, Mel Brimfield, Henny Acloque, Nick Crowe & Ian Rawlinson, Samantha Donnelly, S Mark Gubb, Rebecca Lennon, Eleanor Moreton, Mimei Thompson and Petros Chrisostomou.
I'll be doing up to 8 exhibitions a year, so I've also been researching for the programme, which is almost done now, and begins with These Living Walls of Jet, from 4 July - 2 August 08.
Today we had to agree we have to put in a giant fan as it's way too hot in there & with the imminent launch on 4 July and several hundred guests due, we have to get it sorted. Other than that it's a few last tweaks and ongoing stuff, such as painting the urinals (they won't scrub up as hoped!), setting up new computer and printer, Redcare alarm system, learning to use & input into the database, finalising delivery dates for all the works for the opening show.
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6 June 2008
Artists selected for the Ceri Hand Gallery have come from recommendations, and research from exhibitions seen over the past few years. Doug Jones was found on Axis, and Axis has been useful to confirm information about artists who have been recommended, such as Samantha Donnelly and Hayley Lock.
The Exhibition Title:
Wanting to develop a dark theme for her first exhibition, Ceri looked for elements of the gothic and baroque. The song 'Mattie Groves', as sung by Sandy Denny, has been a key influence (uk.youtube.com), focusing on gruesome ideas to with the follies of excess in wealth and desire - and the tension between sexuality and death. There is something of this in all the artists' work.
The title, 'These Living Walls of Jet', comes from a poem by John Donne called 'The Flea' (luminarium.org), which explores the analogy of a flea-bite as representing marriage or sexual coupling.
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But the title also relates to the way nature reminds us we're not superhuman; as well as the nature of a space - the gallery space - its character, and the people and objects that make it.
On a more practical note - hurrah! a drinks sponsor has stepped up to the occasion, not only providing champagne, but chauffer-driven cars and DJs til 4am! Insurance has had to be sought not only for the building, contents, and public liability, but also work in transit (and some of it's coming from Athens). Lucy Johnston (Ceri's intern) has been sent to Basel, the lucky thing, with a view to the Ceri Hand Gallery being represented there next year.
18 June 2008
Why set up a contemporary art gallery in Liverpool? I've had feedback from younger artists who want to stay in the city and need opportunities beyond trying to put a show together in their living room. There's also a thirst for people to support artists and buy work – there's a gap there. Liverpool has plenty of culture so there's a good knowledge-base, and I can help people to buy, or commission, work, including large-scale.
I'd like a mix of what the best commercial and public galleries do. Who can ignore great galleries like Hauser & Wirth; also Corvi Mora in S London support artists in really interesting ways.
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Each and every gallery has their own style, and I like artists who represent a blend of amateurish-ness, with high quality craftsmanship. The second show tests the edges of contemporary art further, presenting difficult work and, in fact, I'd be amazed if I sell anything. But it builds interest and trust from artists about the way I'm prepared to support artists, and enable them to produce, and present, the best work. This relationship with artists is really important.
On a practical note: Alas! disappointed to be turned down by Zoo this year – they think, quite rightly I suppose, that's it's just too early to tell, given that the gallery hasn't even opened yet! But will also try Frieze and perhaps Nada. Lucy (intern) meanwhile, has come back from Basel with lots of contacts. Lots of crap things to do in the final runup to the gallery opening on July 4th. E.g. with broadband problems an engineer came along and managed to disrupt the alarm system!
2 July 2008
It's all go now. During the day I feel fine and can get on with painting the urinals, tidying the ladies, repainting the front entrance, and stuff. But I have sleepless nights worrying about whether the artists will like the show, and how the press and critics will react.
Also, things like an interview with the Daily Post, invites ready to go out tomorrow, plus new website, designed by Smiling Wolf, going live tomorrow. It's all happening, but there are also ongoing gallery duties, such as supporting artists with statements about their work.
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Friday 4 July, Launch Night
So, at 6pm Anna Hardman from October Communications, Lucy and I, plus a doorman, will be welcoming people to the gallery. Two plinths have been made in the shape of the letters CH for leaflets and stuff.
S Mark Gubb has created a special edition of 300 artworks for people to take away; and Kingdom Bar are doing the food, plus champagne and specially made cocktails.
At 7pm I'll make a speech. I wasn't going to but everyone's said I should. At 7.30 Bedwyr Williams and Juneau Projects will be performing; and after that chauffer-driven cars will take everyone across town to the party venue - an amzing place which is really bling: lots of black marble and silver curtains. And it's party til 4am!
A major part of preparations involve a new hair-do. Williams & Coburn are sponsoring the event with a haircut! Plus, I look so pale and exhausted I'm going for the spray-on tan too! Other worries include whether it might be too hot, which would mean Rebecca Stevensons' work sweating a bit as it's made of wax. Or raining - which makes the space quite noisy. I'm looking forward to saturday when I can get some sleep! And I'll have an idea by then, from feedback, about how it's gone. It's developed really quickly, as I only secured the building at the end of February. It's cost a bit more than expected, but I hope it's worth it!
8 July 2008
Now the gallery is launched, Ceri is both excited and daunted at the prospects of keeping it running. She's already introduced new artists to Liverpool and feels positive about the future.
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Ceri Hand Gallery
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