Keith Ayton's Homecoming At Austin's, Derry~Londonderry
Austin's Department Store in Derry~Londonderry becomes an on-street gallery as Keith Ayton and Hugh Rooney exhibit work
Residents of Derry~Londonderry will know Austin's Department Store as the oldest of its kind anywhere in the world – yes, older even than Selfridge's, older than them all – a sprawling remnant of the high street era.
Many will have lunched Café Mezzo on the top floor, which boasts views of the Diamond and across into the Bogside. For others, Austin's is the first port-of-call when it comes to searching for that all-important new outfit. But few would go there with the aim of appreciating, and perhaps even purchasing, a work of art.
Now they can, thanks to local artists Keith Ayton and Hugh Rooney, who are currently exhibiting new works in all of Austin's huge display windows for the next couple of weeks as part of the UK City of Culture 2013 celebrations.
'When Keith approached us over a year ago with his idea to have an on-street gallery,' recalls Austin's general manager, Declan Hasson, 'we thought that fitted in very well. It was an opportunity for us to become part of the whole UK City of Culture.'
The unusual joint exhibition is entitled Homecoming, Ayton having moved to Belfast from Derry~Londonderry many years ago. Ayton's section features oil paintings depicting local landmarks, including Grianan Fort and Beltany Stone Circle, both ancient sites located just across the border in County Donegal.
Rooney's exhibit, meanwhile, features pencil drawings and paintings of local people and places, many of which will be familiar to the thousands of inadvertent gallery-goers pounding the streets of Derry until May 8.