Hot on the tail of H.Art week we felt inspired to check out what’s on offer right here in our very own Ludlow. Compiling a list of all the art galleries in the town, we surprised each other by the discovery of the one or two, Claire visited regularly which I had never known about and vice versa (Ludlow is not a big town so you generally think you know every nook & cranny) and the mutual admission that there were two galleries neither of us had been into because they appeared a bit intimidating from the outside and to date, we had been too chicken to go in.
Buoyed up by each other’s company and doing our best not to appear too much like frauds, we began our trail at the top of town in Market Square and finished at the bottom, on Lower Corve Street. We didn’t visit all of the galleries in Ludlow (for various reasons they were either closed or were by appointment only and neither Claire nor I had the chutzpah for the latter) but those that we did were open by 10am and one eventually opened at 11am.
Ludlow tour over, we hopped into the Yellow Peril (Claire’s vintage sunshine yellow MX5 (wee warning: it’s not yellow for nothing! stay clear if you ever spot it coming at or towards you) and Formula-One style headed along the 30-minute, stunningly scenic route across the Corvedale, to Much Wenlock, home of the Twenty Twenty Gallery. The Twenty Twenty had been recommended to us by friends and family and sits plump in the middle of this tiny but exquisite town. Aside from being rather peeved by the local council car parking charges (the cheapest tariff is 90p for up to 2 hours stay but there is no offer either of a 1-hour tariff or change), Much Wenlock offered art, lunch and the biggest Softy ice-creams we had ever encountered so fully deserves to be featured in a future blog.
Here are the simple results of our experience:
Best for Animal Lovers: Minter-Kemp Art Gallery & Shop, The Assembly Rooms, Castle Street. Previously located in Corve Street at Tom Dickens Fine Art, this is a new Gallery for local artist, Claire Minter-Kemp. She is renowned for her humorous, distinctive & beautifully drawn Greeting Cards but also produces bronzes and oil paintings, a small selection of which are displayed in the gallery. If you are looking for an affordable gift, the shop is stuffed full of mugs, prints, placemats, cards, wrapping paper and some very funky new tea towels. We particularly liked the framed prints of her ‘Perfect Match’ design which priced at only £25 would make a great wedding/anniversary/engagement present. Prices ranged from £1.95 for a card to £3,750 for an original oil.
Best for Budding Artists: The Silk Top Hat Gallery, Quality Square. This gallery, situated in Ludlow’s most picturesque corner, just off the Market Square almost won Best Location but as the only gallery we visited which offered art materials, we felt it should sit under the category of best for artists. In addition to a paints & brushes, the gallery also offers inspiration for any wannabes in its large range of mixed media, quite a feat given the diminutive size of the building: the three (albeit small) floors not only offer paintings in gouache, oils, collage and water-colours but also exhibit glassware, pottery, treasure chests, jewllery and small pieces of furniture. The shop on the ground floor is well stocked with gifts & cards and it is definitely worth putting your name on their mailing list for their regular exhibitions of local and other artists and The Top Hat Tours. Prices ranged from £150 to £3,000.
Best for Location: Ludlow Castle Gallery. When your setting is within the gates of a Century Norman Castle, it’s a pretty safe bet that you are hard to beat on location. This Gallery is tiny, a circa 12ft by 8ft room, full to the brim with a variety of art pieces but given the nature of the space, with a very limited choice. The ‘gallery’ sits at the end of a corridor as is separate from the Gift Shop so I missed it the shop when we first walked in but Claire was fortunately a regular and guided me back. On first impression, it seemed that many of the items for sale and in the gallery were not sourced locally but looking over their website, they insist that “nearly all of our art is made by local craftspeople, artists, and artisans”. The Gallery also offers a picture framing service which was a surprise to us both and useful to know.
Best for a Warm Welcome: Pepper House Gallery, Pepper Lane. When the sign outside your door states “Don’t Be Shy You Don’t Have to Buy!”, it’s impossible to walk past! This charming gallery features predominantly the work of local artist, Andy Nash. True to its word, the gallery was welcoming, offered a variety of cards, prints & original works and we felt no pressure to buy. Most of the work depicted local scenes so this is a great stop-off for visitors looking for an illustrated memento of Ludlow. Andy also offers a bespoke commission service. Prices ranged from £10 to £375.
Best for the Art Connoisseur: Rowles Fine Art, 53 Mill Street. Confession time – this is the gallery that we have driven and walked past countless times but had never dared to go in due to it’s expensive and sophisticated window display and interior. However, we couldn’t have got a more warm welcome from the owners who were chatty, friendly and at no point made us feel as though we were wasting their time. Their website tells us that Rowles is ‘one of the largest UK Fine Art dealers of 19th-21st century British and European paintings and sculptures’ and this was certainly reflected in the prices of the bronzes and paintings on display. Later in the day we were asked if we had visited the upstairs floor which we didn’t even realise existed so this is a great excuse to go back and investigate.
Best for the Surprise Element: Bebb Fine Art, 1 Church Street. This was the other gallery which we had both walked passed numerous times, drawn by the stunning and often unusual paintings in the window but again, had been too intimated to look round. The owners were deep in conversation with another client when we walked in and only greeted us when we had said hello. Before we had time to dwell on this lukewarm welcome, we were totally blown away by a Banksy hanging on the wall and Claire was also taken with a number of sculptures. Never did we imagine that in a side street of our little market town could you not only see but also buy the works (albeit limited edition prints & lithographs) of Warhol, Frink, Hepworth and Lowry. We were left to browse as well which may have been part of the “pressure-free atmosphere” it advertises on its website.
Best for Affordable Art lovers: Twenty-Twenty Gallery, Much Wenlock. 3-4 High Street. This Gallery is beautifully curated with a very comprehensive mix of work from local and other well-known artists in addition to a small selection of furniture, pottery, gifts, cards and art materials. We really enjoyed chatting to the manager who was very welcoming and helpful. I immediately fell in love with two paintings on display. Priced at £400 each, it was very unlikely that I was going to be walking out with them. However, the owner of the gallery (who was not there when we visited) made the amazing effort of coming to find us in the nearby Deli to explain how we could purchase the work by signing up to the Affordable Art loan initiative which allows you to spread your cost over a number of months. Watch this space!