A Legenderry New Space for Artists

The Warehouse Gallery will provide a contemporary and commercial platform to showcase the creative energy in the North West and beyond

Derry-Londonderry has a new art gallery.

Officially opening on Friday, December 4, the Warehouse Gallery is the fourth and final phase of the expansion of the Warehouse business. It started with a café, in 2013, and recent months have seen first a bistro, and then an expanded shop added, all run from within the same old warehouse in Guildhall Street.

That’s important, because they all share the same principles. The ethos of the Warehouse is that everything that is cooked, or sold, or exhibited is sourced from as close to the red front door as possible. Local talent will be showcased and celebrated, enhanced when appropriate by flavours from further afield.

And sold, of course. The gallery is both an exhibition space and a commercial operation, and the woman tasked with balancing those twin demands is Anne Quigley. An artist herself, whose work seeks to remove the emotional and cultural layers that obscure the true self, Anne recognises the scale of the job, but remains undaunted.

'I am very motivated about my new challenge,' she says. 'We present a series of mainly Irish art from leading and emerging artists from both north and south and also beyond Ireland. This is something the city desperately needs and I'm genuinely excited about what we can achieve.

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Artwork by Patrick Bradley

'I think the city needs this gallery as it will provide an innovative and exciting opportunity for all art lovers in Derry. It will help to bring life, engagement, and contemporary views to the vibrant art scene that is emerging on our doorstep.'

The fact that she herself is an artist gives her work as a gallery manager an extra dimension, one that allows her greater understanding of the artist’s needs, as well as the hopes and frustrations and demands. She knows artists must be true to their own visions; she knows they have to eat.

'The gallery is dedicated to working in partnership with artists to promote their work. The North West is bursting with people full of creative energy and artistic drive and we will be giving the best of these artists the opportunity to showcase their work and provide them with a launchpad for their careers.' In addition to seeking out artists whose work fits, Quigley is also keen for others to come to her with their work.

The roster of artists whose work is featured in the gallery is impressive. Marty Kelly, Melita Denaro, Brian Ferran, and Marina Hamilton all have work on display. Denise Ferran, Terry Coyle, Patrick Bradley, Kevin McClelland, and Mary Christy are there too.

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Artworks by Mary Christie

But if the list of names can read like a Who’s Who of Irish art, there are plenty exhibiting that would feature in a simple Who? Jude, for instance. On the wall at the entrance to the gallery is his Peace Bridge. It is an austere, confident, beautiful piece, a rectangle of brushed aluminium, with stabs of blue over scrubbed and sanded black paint.

Jude has more works on display in the gallery proper, portraits in brief, bold distinct blocks of colour, accumulating and meshing to create succinct images of honesty and power.

Jude

Artworks by Jude

There are other names not widely known, for now, at least. Brian Farrell has a couple of pieces there, as does Allan Offord, a figurative painter moving towards greater abstraction of form, seeking emotion rather than analysis. Like Farrell he has exhibited in places before, so has a little something of a track record, but nevertheless struggles for exposure, or, at least, exposure of the right kind in the right place.

'I am continually searching for venues that promote a high standard of artwork and that show an interest in what I am trying to achieve,' he says. 'Yes, I want to sell my work, but I also want people to have the opportunity to see it, have a personal engagement with the images I create, and to consider the issues I am dealing with.'

Encased 1 (2015) oil on canvas

Encased 1 (2015) oil on canvas by Allan Offord

That dual aim of Quigley and the Warehouse Gallery seems perfect for artists such as Offord. The established names hang alongside the new, creating a sense of togetherness and continuity, warmth and comradeship too.

'The gallery is committed to promoting artists and their work,' says Anne, 'and it’s my plan that one of the rooms in the gallery would be used by local artists and art groups, college students and so on, so they could have solo shows and group exhibitions. I feel it is important to help emerging artists by giving them an opportunity to show work in a commercial gallery setting.'

The idea is to give Derry-Londonderry a friendly, welcoming, mainstream gallery, where people can come and see the best work the region can offer, as well as work from a wider area, and where artists can interact with the public and explain their ideas in a commercial, creative space.

Commerce and creativity are to go hand in hand. It is not a gallery for safe art, nor for work that shocks simply for the sake of it. The model is already there, in the red dot stuck on the label next to one of Jude’s portraits.

The Warehouse Gallery will be opened by Dr Denise Ferran with a special launch event from 6.30 - 9.30pm on Friday, December 4.