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Is opening an art gallery during the worse pandemic in living memory a sensible thing to do?

Ahead of his first exhibition, Sixteen Gallery owner Andy Owen-Smith talks about what it's been like to open a brand new art gallery and how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the art scene.

After nearly two years and eight months of renovation work, Cheltenham now has a new space that amateur and professional artists can use to exhibit their work. But is opening a gallery really the right thing to do when across the world ‘Art’ is probably not the most important thing on everyone’s mind?

The art world along with everything else in our lives changed during the first Covid lockdown with the closure of galleries, art fairs and the physical interaction with the audience suspended. For art lovers, seeing it there in front of them, understanding scale, interpreting colour, form, texture and seeing the work as the artist intended, was no longer possible.

To survive, some artists, galleries, art auctions, sale rooms and art fairs looked to digital platforms to help reconnect with their audiences, but for most artists, it became a unique opportunity to review, to re-establish and reassess themselves and their practice. They moved back to 'the kitchen table’ or if they were lucky, an alternative space away from the city and from the outside world. For the most part, artists were a little constrained, but they are used to applying their craft in isolation.

Art itself adapts and changes to suit the world in which it exists. Throughout history artists have been there to monitor, record and help society make sense of events such as world wars, political change, and now global pandemics.

The signs are positive that art is not just surviving but thriving!

During the past two years of enforced isolation more people than ever have begun to explore the value of producing art from a physical and mental perspective and thanks to social media have had a platform of sorts.

However, without the personal engagement with the audience Art it is just a ‘hobby’ and no more than gratification for the producer. The artist needs feedback, reaction, they need a response, a physical connection, experiences difficult to reproduce through a screen or VR headset.

Artists need to be able to share their work and the demand for exhibition space to allow them to engage with their audience never greater.

So, is opening an art gallery during the worse pandemic in living memory a sensible thing to do?

Yes, it is exactly the right time to open a gallery.

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