Gate gallery starts the New Year with complaints from exhibiting artists.
The Gate Arts Centre, in Keppoch Street, is being criticized by artists on social media for overpriced rates and little advertising, but the centre says their policy is clear.
Kate Evans, the surrealist painter behind Red Maiden Art, disagrees and blames the venue for the bad turn up at her ‘After Damages’ show. Evans was forced to postpone her opening night when none of the gallery’s promised experts were free to help hanging her artwork.
“It was bad service run by disregard for the hard work of artists. I was gutted my art was shown for less time, but I would not be as upset if I had not paid £200 for ‘storage’ instead of a gallery rental which promised marketing to thousands of people as well as a professional service,” says Evans.
While a closing event was later organised, the flyers were not edited with the correct date. According to the artist, nobody came.
Gate Gallery explains Kate Evan’s lack of visitors came from her status as a new artist closing on a Friday night. Marketing and Fundraising manager Sarah Chew says it is the gallery’s least popular day, but claims that the final night for ‘After Damages’ was not empty.
“Actually, quite a few people were at the gallery, but the artist had already left which was a shame. I can speak for the Arts Centre by saying we do our best to promote every event, but it is also in our policy that it is the artist’s job to get visitors too,” says Chew.
Kate Evans shows InterCardiff her art portfolio:
Evans is also upset that one of her painting’s frames ended up scratched, even though she admits being aware that the gallery does not accept ‘any responsibility for damage to artwork from accidental damage while hanging or unhanging’ as written in their Exhibiting Policy.
“I trusted they would take the appropriate precautions that no damage is done to artwork as said in their policy, but I was wrong” says the painter.
Evan’s is not alone in her complaints. Artist Penelope Cowley¹, famous for fusing art with science, is another artist disappointed with The Gate’s recent services.
“They got my name wrong in their brochure. Crowley instead of Cowley.They printed some posters, but they do not seem to try to attract a buying art clientèle which they should since they are charging,” says the artist who believes the gallery’s problems come from it being a charity organization.
“There is a growing disparity between venues that rely on sales and those that are subsidized by charity or grants like Gate Arts Centre. To put it plainly, those that rely on sales work a lot harder than those that don’t. Being run by volunteers does not mean they are not responsible for their failures,” says Cowley.
The artist was also unhappy that she was not warned she could not display pieces showing breasts before her joint-exhibition at The Gate last December.
“They should state more clearly what works are acceptable to go on the walls, specifically, so an artist does not labour on paintings that in their opinion are indecent. I spent ages on some nude works that didn’t get shown,” says Cowley.
The centre says their Exhibiting Policy does not raise doubts by stating ‘We reserve the right to decline exhibiting work (…) this decision will be made at the discretion of our Gallery Staff. Such reasoning includes but is not limited to; artwork which includes nudity.’
Despite the recent bad ratings on Facebook, previous exhibitions at the gallery have run without issues.
“My experience at The Gate went extremely well and was supported by friendly, accommodating staff,” says artist Melanie Wotton, who is an exhibition coordinator herself.
Jessica Davies, who did the December joint exhibition with Cowley, also says she enjoyed the overall experience despite having some initial trouble with artwork being set up the wrong way.
“Price wise, it is fairly cheap to hire, especially for group exhibitions. Yet, the Gate could be more organized working alongside artists to ensure they are happy as you are paying them at the end of the day,” says Davies.
Red Maiden Art’s Facebook fans have been motivating Evans to pursue a formal complaint, but the artist wants to move on and believes she should have been more careful when booking a venue. Now, the artist warns others organizing solo exhibitions to pay attention to their rights when signing a contract with a gallery.
“Make sure what you are getting as a service is worth your time and your money,” advises Kate Evans.
[Edited 03/04/2016: ¹After reflection, artist Penelope Cowley contacted InterCardiff to add that she did not confirm if all her works were suitable for exhibition at The Gate before the start of her December exhibition. She admits she was at fault in that respect. She also wishes to add that she had previous positive experiences with The Gate and believes the gallery works well for big group collaborations]