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The Newlyn Gallery

Jeremy LeGrice


The imminent reopening of this hundred year old building, with its new extension, makes it all the more important to spotlight the exhibition policy of this gallery, which is a registered charity under the control of its trustees.

In recent years there has been widespread and keenly felt discontent amongst a broad section of the public who hitherto nurtured a close interest in the gallery, many of whom have become alienated by the policies of the past decade, feeling that things have gone importantly astray and that the valuable wall-space has been usurped, to be used in ways far from those proper for the gallery. The latter considerations are defined in the gallery's well-nigh unique bequest as being essentially for the benefit of artists working in west Cornwall.

Under the Lease recently come into effect, there are to be regular discussions of exhibition policy and other matters between the director with members of the management and trustee panels. It has already been agreed that a new climate of cooperation between these bodies is established, and that this should now be carried forward.

There is a provision written into the constitution that makes possible an element of education. However, it is self-evident that this should not be used as a loophole to corrupt or undermine the true intentions for the gallery, as has happened extensively over the past decade when the professional ambition of those involved have sometimes taken precedence over the gallery's limitations, connected intimately with the specific artistic history of Newlyn.

Fortunately, there is now every indication that the new director, James Green, is sufficiently able and imaginative to embrace within the legally binding conditions under which he must work, perimeters for a series of first rate exhibitions. He appears to be open-minded and has now been in the area long enough to visit by invitation artists’ studios in order to discuss ways of including the best work being produced in the area into his now developing programme.

Seen in its long-term perspective, exhibiting at the Gallery has always been competitive, with rival factions and individuals contending keenly for the available limited space; views severely at variance one with another about what it is valid to exhibit have always been asserted. The creative battlefield which stretches into the future now involves an area more fundamental than conflicts of artistic styles; it involves as a positive factor the gallery's essential restricted and regional nature, the true raison d’etre of this fine building.

Although the trustees are determined to come to grips with the reality of this situation, in the long run it is a question that will be decided by the active participation of the artists and the public. By joining the Gallery (£12.50 p.a) you have a voice and a vote in its future.

Jeremy LeGrice    Feb 2007