Why York Has Just Got A Little Bit Cooler: Art Of Protest Gallery
I know that I am always ranting on about how much I love York. One of the main reasons for this is that York is a treasure trove of independent businesses - restaurants, bars and shops that make shopping and dining so much more interesting. Personally, I've never lived anywhere outside of London that has so much choice and it's fab. I think that it says a lot when I tell you that we only got our first Primark recently after years of protest and outrage at the very idea from the locals (obviously not including my daughter). Prior to this, we would make special trips to Harrogate for supplies of hair bobbles and knickers, an experience more akin to shopping at Marks & Spencer in an environment virtually unrecognisable as a Primark Branch.
When it comes to independent restaurants, we are seriously spoilt. The options are endless. If you haven't been to Il Paradiso El Cibo on Walmgate, you haven't lived. It's unprepossessing facade conceals a cosy, laid back environment which is almost like eating in Paolo Silesu, the owner's, front room (there's even a television on the wall showing Italian football) and they serve the best burrata in the North. You need to book weeks in advance but it's totally worth the effort. From vintage clothes shops to coffee shops to tapas bars, shopping small is big in York.
So when I found out that there was a new independent Art Gallery opening in York, I knew that support from the local community would be huge. As a prime tourist location and a University City, the population here is diverse and cosmopolitan and literally crying out for more art focused developments. The focus of the brand new Art Of Protest Gallery is to showcase art inspired by political and social unrest and their first major piece of advertising has been a huge success. Street artist DEFER, pioneer of the first LA Graffiti crews, flew over from the States and created a wall mural opposite the new Gallery that is totally eye popping and already has people queuing for the perfect selfie backdrop. The official opening (check their Facebook page for details) is 13 April and if you are in the York area, you don't want to miss it.
So Who's Behind It All?
After studying art and design, Craig Humble worked in and around the dance music scene of the 1990's before returning to academia to study History of Art at the University of York. Following this, he worked with Europe's largest publisher and gallery group representing a broad range of artists, including Bob Dylan and Ronnie Wood, via 13 galleries across the North of England.
Jeff Clark's love of travel led him to train in expedition leadership, visiting places such as Iceland, North Africa, South Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan. He moved into the fine art market in the UK and USA and has curated art shows around the world. He's worked with exciting artists such as Retna, Peter Beard and McAlpine Miller and closely with the Rolling Stones and Ronnie Wood. He's also worked with retrospective collections Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons.
After reconnecting with Craig who had just returned from a sabbatical in South America, they consulted together on Europes largest Urban Art Fair, Moniker and decided to collaborate. They created the Art Of Protest Gallery as a business to help be the voice of a movement of some of the most under represented art of the last 30 years and to promote some of these highly creative artists and their work.
What's the Focus?
So the aim of the Gallery is to represent art influenced by visual cultures since 1971. Craig explained that the vast majority of art created since this date has been sampled and used by marketing, advertising, fashion and the design world but rarely shared with the general public for sale outside of London. Art is for everyone everywhere and by opening their first Gallery in York, the goal is to share urban contemporary art with a broader audience.
What Will I See?
I visited the the Gallery last week when Craig and Jeff were still hanging the art prior to officially opening. The effect of so many amazing contemporary artworks grouped together is stunning and I didn't see a single piece that I wouldn't wish to have in my own home. With prices ranging from £150 to a high end of £7,000, it's feasible to be able to own something completely unique for a reasonable price. The space has been fitted out in a raw, industrial style which is a brilliant backdrop to the artwork and Craig and Jeff actively encourage people to come in and chat and have a look at what's going on.
There are 22 different artists whose work is available to view in the Gallery so I've focused on five that really stood out to me, although tbh it was a hard choice.
Describing himself as an 'accidental artist', Gjoen studied fine art and fashion design which led to a successful career in fashion working for brands such as Vivienne Westwood. His art offers a modern spin on old masterpieces or manipulates powerful or strong objects into something fragile yet beautiful.
Born in Edinburgh with a post Grad degree at Central St Martins, Salty is happily ensconced in her seaside emporium in sunny Brighton. She loves to scour flea markets and car boot sales for unwanted family photographs, royal scrapbooks, paintings and vintage prints and turns the unloved into the cherished.
From Middlesborough but now living and working in London, Lauren is a British comtemporary multi disciplinary artist who exhibits internationally. She's created installations at the V&A, Tate Britain, ran an art workshop at the Tate Modern and directed the windows of Selfridges.
Iconic street artist Alex Kizu, aka DEFER, was a pioneer of the first generation of LA Grafitti crews and shares the influences of true street art within his own murals, canvases and prints. You can see the huge mural he created on the corner of Little Stonegate next to Browns Department Store.
Antony Horlock, under the name of H, quickly rose to become one of the foremost artists in the late 80's rave scene after studying graphic design at college He moved on to become Creative Director of his own production company before creating a Creative Solutions Collective, producing huge installations and artwork. Now in a position to concentrate fully on his art, he's produced many paintings and full art installations.
So if you are visiting York, then I would massively recommend that you make an effort to go and visit Art Of Protest. It's a feast for the eyes and Craig and Jeff are so friendly, knowledgeable and approachable, keen to create an environment where people can pop in for a coffee or a glass of wine on a Saturday for a browse and some interesting chat. And when you've finished, you can pop off for some burrata at Paolos. Sounds like the perfect day to me.