Galleries - December 2015

Given the often precarious nature ofrunning a commercial art gallery – recurring recessions and all that – one that survives to celebrate its 50th birthday in rude health really has quite a lot of which to be proud. Add the fact that it is out ofLondon, and Mary Yapp’s achievement in keeping The Albany Gallery in the Roath district ofCardifa buzzing hive of activity for over half a century proves there is an almost heroic character here! What is more, she is still very much in charge, the moving force behind the massive Anniversary Exhibition that runs through to the end ofthe month – over 70 artists and 280 paintings in a changing display, including the work of some ofthe first artists she ever showed, Charles Wyatt Warren, Donald McIntyre and John Wright. Kyffin Williams was, of course, the great figure in the gallery’s history; she first met him when she used to chauffeur her father to have tea with him and later became his Welsh agent. With her three children now all partners in the business I can see no good reason why the Albany Gallery shouldn’t be around to celebrate its 100th! While a non-commercial gallery may never face acute problems in establishing itself, the economics ofsetting up a space dedicated to the most contemporary in the visual arts have not always been so obvious, especially when it was in 1966 and in a university city then so resolutely philistine about them as Oxford. MoMA, as it was then known, more recently re-branded Modern Art Oxford, has been celebrating its 50th year ofcontinuous activity with a programme ofshows called ‘Kaleidoscope’, mining its incredibly pioneering exhibition history. As I remember, it was quite hard up during its first few years – I recall the first director, Peter Ibsen, phoning me at the Royal Academy for help, and passing on to him some coir matting that was being taken up from the old Diploma Galleries! Established in an old brewery at the back ofPembroke College, it was from the first, however, putting on many major names still largely unseen in this country – Ibsen did Christian Boltanski in 1973, and a year or two later, the next director, a very young Nicholas Serota, was doing Joseph Beuys. In short it was quality that told and that eventually resulted in Arts Council, City Council and other backing that it needed to survive, and continue as a major force in the country’s visual arts 50 years on. Hugely expanded and developed since those early days, go and see it ifyou’ve never been before. While 10 years in the business may seem like quite small beer by comparison, establishing a gallery within London’s EU Commission, an organisation with priorities largely political and economic rather than artistic or cultural, cannot always have been that easy a thing to sustain. That the 12 Star Gallery has become such a lively fixture has much to do with its tremendously charming and energetic director, Jeremy O’Sullivan, who runs a wonderfully wide-ranging programme ofexhibitions, anything ranging from contemporary Czech architecture and an Albanian figurative painter to a Belgian artist-photographer and Charlie Clift’s ironic photo- survey ofBrits Abroad. From a modest beginning in a tiny space on Parliament Square, to a substantial ground floor gallery in the Commission’s rather grand Smith Square building, this is now a very welcome addition to the London’s artistic scene. They put on plenty offunctions too – poetry readings, literary events and talks; in short well worth getting on their mailing list. The exhibition to mark the 10th anniversary is aptly named ‘Celebration!’ (9 December to 8 January) with sculpture and paintings by Andrew Logan. Nicholas Usherwood ANTENNAE from left: C harles Wyatt Warren ‘Snowdonia’ The Albany Gallery John Latham ‘Latter Day Observer’ 1963 © John Latham, courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery, Modern Art Oxford Andrew Logan ‘Maria Callas’, 12 Star Gallery DECEMBER 2015 GALLERIES 15 Fifty/Fifty + 10