It’s the word we came up with to describe this place - a small, local, artist-owned gallery which provides a warm welcome and is always free to view. All the exhibits are available for sale. We owe a debt to Martyn Hillier and the Butcher’s Arms – the first micropub. It’s not just about size (ours is 9m2 or 97ft2) – fundamentally it’s about quality and atmosphere.
We visited Sunderland Point for the first time in June 2015. Our journal entry for that day captures our initial impressions: ‘the views were fabulous even in the wind and rain – it felt wild and edgy’.
To me the word ‘edge’ and many of its synonyms feel natural and at home in a studio and gallery setting. An edge is a border, line or meeting place between an end and a beginning. It signifies change. It is the cutting side of a blade and suggests sharpness.
What is a microgallery
A brief history of art galleries
The Duke of Bridgewater may have been a misogynistic, heavy smoking, hard drinking, penny-pinching philistine and misanthrope but he is a bit of a hero to us at Edge at Overton, for not only did he build the first ‘modern’ canal in Britain but he changed the British art world forever.
In the 18th century there were few opportunities to experience Italian and French Old Masters in London. Wealthy travellers had the opportunity to visit collections in Paris, Vienna, Rome, and Florence but poorer art-lovers, unable to travel abroad, had to settle for the occasional Old Master at the London auction houses or small, monochrome engravings of original works. Private British collections were not of the consistent quality of those abroad and were seldom open for viewing by a large public.
Once the Duke realised that the Old Masters could turn a healthy profit, he developed a rather sudden enthusiasm for art. In 1798 he formed a syndicate to raise the £43,500 (£2 million in today’s money) needed to buy all the French and Italian pictures from the Orléans Collection – one of the finest collections ever assembled. The syndicate put on a grand display to show and sell their new paintings - 94 of the best were reserved for themselves and the remainder were sold (at a healthy profit!).
This exhibition-cum-sale was trail-blazing. Years afterwards, the critic William Hazlitt was able to recall ‘a new heaven and a new earth stood before me’.
The Orléans Collection exhibition created a new commitment on the part of England’s art-owning aristocrats, bankers and merchants, not only to collecting art, but also to displaying it for public benefit. Initially this started with owners opening up their private collections on a more regular basis, but this was just the beginning - the public interest in art was now unstoppable, and would lead to the development of loan exhibitions and eventually the creation of permanent public art galleries.
More recently another kind of gallery has emerged. These are privately run businesses which buy, exhibit and sell contemporary art for profit. Charles Saatchi’s gallery gave him the freedom to exhibit controversial work unlikely to have been shown elsewhere. He made cutting edge work accessible to the public and often made the careers of artists he publicised.
[We acknowledge with thanks the National Gallery as the source of the historical information used here.]
Edge at Overton
In setting up my own artist-owned microgallery I can make art that reflects my interests. Hopefully some will sell, but so long as there is an emotional or intellectual response to my work, positive or negative, I will feel that my artistic voice has been heard.