We met with Jamie Gourlay Gallery of Eton in Part 1, just before their debut at the Spring 2011 Affordable Art Fair in London. Art Beat dropped in on Jamie and his gallery manager, Katie Tunn, as they set up their stand at the fair, and called in again four days later shortly before closing time. What we found was astonishing.
Twenty-five thousand visitors streamed through the doors this year in Battersea Park. It was all Jamie Gourlay Gallery could do to keep up with the demand at stand C6. From the private view on Thursday evening until closing time on Sunday, one artwork after another was plucked from the walls: the screen prints and vivid acrylics of Ian Burke, Head of Art at Eton College, and the spare and sensuous line drawings of Howard Tangye, fashion illustrator and lecturer at Central St Martins.
Tangye’s art was hot. So hot, in fact, that it sparked bidding wars.
“We completely sold out at first,” Jamie says, “so we went back to Howard’s studio for more.” When that lot sold they raided the studio again, and when those were snapped up they returned a third time. The gallery’s waist-high folding print rack was wheeled to centre stage and filled with more of Ian’s screen prints and unframed Tangye portraits. Prospective buyers clustered round.
Tangye’s art sold in waves. An hour would go by with no sales at all, then suddenly 15 people would cram the gallery’s stand to look at his work. “Sometimes three or four pieces would sell in just five minutes’ time,” Jamie says. “We had to put Howard’s prices up. Drawings on cardboard were selling out of the print rack for £1700, unframed. Incredible for a relatively unknown artist.”
The gallery sold so much art they ran out of red dots.
And those dots make a difference. As Jamie puts it, “I genuinely believed we were showing good work, but people still looked for reassurance at the red dots on art we had already sold.” When one artwork sold, others soon followed. Another important factor in the gallery’s sales was the story behind the art, and why the gallery believes in it. The way the artwork was hung also had a clear impact on sales. “By the time we knew what was selling,” Jamie says, “we made the most of it by giving Howard’s work more space.”
Their success at the Affordable Art Fair has persuaded Jamie that the art fair format could become a key element in the gallery’s business strategy. “It also helped us to launch Howard as a fine artist,” Jamie says. Tangye has already been commissioned for new work as a result of the fair. “He’ll be the first artist we sign on an exclusive basis. We’re both excited at the prospect of working together to develop his career.”
Up till now Tangye has been better known for his work in fashion. A native Australian, he graduated from St Martins School of Art in London in 1974 and took up a post-graduate scholarship at Parsons School of Design in New York, where he specialized in drawing. He went on to work with some of the biggest names in the industry, and over the past 20 years has drawn the collections at Dior and John Galliano.
Tangye now lectures at Central St Martins. In the last few months he has also led live drawing demonstrations for the London Design Museum, including a freebie in February at Top Shop in Oxford Street.
“I have been drawing practically all of my life,” he says. Even when he isn’t doing it physically, Tangye finds that he’s always “casting a line” in his head. The body and character of his subjects are important to him. The ability to concentrate and to work quickly are crucial.
“Drawing is hard work, and demanding,” Howard says. “It’s not always a happy outcome, but over time the drawings sort of take on a life of their own. It’s a bit like falling in love, but unrequited.”
Cynthia Barlow Marrs is the Art Editor for Beat Magazine. An artist based in Windsor, Cynthia is on the Council of the Society of Graphic Fine Art. She started out with a degree in fine art and worked internationally in environmental planning and business-community programme development before returning to England to stay put and paint. More about Cynthia Barlow Marrs
Howard Tangye is Senior Lecturer and Head of Womenswear on the BA Fashion course at Central St Martinswww.howardtangye.com
Ian Burke is Head of Art at Eton College. Born in Saltburn and brought up in Redcar, he studied Fine Art at Newcastle University and Goldsmith’s College, London, and did a two-year stint as a worker on the North Sea oil rigs in between. Ian exhibits regularly in North Yorkshire, and in London has shown at New Contemporaries and the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition. He lives near the North Yorkshire Moors.
Katie Tunn, manager at Jamie Gourlay Gallery, is a graduate of Central St Martins. She is also a portrait painter. For more about Katie www.katietunn.com
Find more about Jamie Gourlay here: www.jamiegourlay.com
Howard Tangye http://www.howardtangye.com/
The Affordable Art Fair (AAF) www.affordableartfair.com/london/home