THE LONDON ART SCENE
In 1994, when an ardent young art dealer friend called Giles launched his own art gallery, we felt compelled to help him in his endeavour. He was just about to get married. "Let's call it a wedding present," we said. Little did we know that Giles' wedding present would roll on for twelve years...
Back then, the contemporary art market was not as it is today, with its superstar artists and dealers. London offered only a modest and eclectic scattering of contemporary galleries. Giles' new venture was to be called the Blue Gallery and he started with the intention of creating an exhibition space for young artists. This was in an era when fledgling artists struggled for recognition and had few prospects of any financial return for their efforts.
In keeping with the spirit of this mad enterprise, Atelier responded with a Blue Gallery logo that could appear in any colour Giles wanted — except blue. From its launch, the programme (and identity) proved conspicuous and unpredictable. By 1997, Giles' artists were getting noticed, winning prestigious prizes, and Giles was exhibiting the very first Hubble Telescope images in conjunction with NASA. The little-known Tracey Emin and Grayson Perry exhibited at the gallery. By the end of the 1990s, the Blue Gallery was an established part of the London art scene.
It was time to move to bigger premises; art dealers were becoming 'sharper' and the times dictated a crisper identity. Atelier created a new Blue Gallery logo (top). This time, it was actually blue. We continued to design invitations and catalogues for the Blue Gallery but by now we were applying a 'corporate' consistency that mirrored the new world of the gallery's corporate clients.
Invitations were presented in a consistent format but the artists' work remained the most striking element — not our design.
Many show catalogues were designed in consultation with the artists. We found this a fruitful and enriching experience for us.
Some catalogues had unconventional formats. This fold-out map was designed for an artist who had travelled to the Arctic Circle for inspiration.
We met and worked closely with many artists but sadly, only one cosmonaut. It was fascinating to find out about Commander Yuri Usachev's space missions, particularly the special observation window in the Mir Space Station through which his arresting exhibition photographs were taken. This porthole transfixed Yuri during his time in space. His catalogue cover features the embossed details of the window frame and a hole through which one of Yuri's photographs can be seen.
Sadly, by 2005, art dealers were making a better living without the expensive overhead of a gallery; such was the impact of online dealing and the popular success of annual art shows. The Blue Gallery closed in 2006 and this brought to an end a busy period of working with emerging artists and the whirl of private views. We have one or two good paintings as memories, so the wedding present was more than reciprocated. Thanks Giles!
Related project: 90 Minutes