Words by Jenni Davidson
For a city full of artists, Brighton and Hove is not exactly over endowed with gallery space, so it’s always welcome when a new one comes on the scene. And if it’s one that looks set to innovate and push the boundaries, so much the better.
The Warehouse Gallery in Brighton’s North Laine is just such a gallery. Set back from in Gloucester Road in its own courtyard, it opened in December with an edgy exhibition of street art featuring the work of Zee Zee 22, Cassette Lord, Archi Ram and Funky Red Dog.
The gallery itself is a collaboration between the four street artists and gallery manager and graphic designer Kevin Smith. The idea grew out of a chance relationship between Smith and Martin Middleton, aka street artist Cassette Lord.
Kevin Smith has lived above the gallery space for seven years. He used it as a studio for his work as a designer and stored stock there for his online business, but it was in need of some care and attention.
“This place was sitting here and I didn’t know what to do with it,” he says. “I toyed with renting it out for workshops or as studios.”
Step in Middleton, whose website Smith had designed a few years previously, who suggested an open house and brought in the other street artists. A few meetings later and the Beastie Toys exhibition was born in time for the Christmas Artists Open Houses in December. So far Smith is very pleased with the results.
“It’s brought a vibrancy back to the building,” he says.
He admits that working with street artists has taken some getting used to and there have been “a few spats”.
“I worked for corporates as a designer. I thought they were mad!” he laughs.
He’s learning not to leave anything lying around that he doesn’t want spray painted. “They’re real magpies,” he says.
But, says Smith, the gallery is of benefit to all of them. “It’s a positive thing for everybody. We’re all getting something out of this. They need to make money to eat. I need to make money to pay for this place.”
Far from having a long term business strategy, the collective is working on a far more spontaneous model. Originally they didn’t even know if the gallery would stay open after the open house but, with two more exhibitions in the offing for this year, it looks set to continue.
The next exhibition is an Italian deconstructivist who Archi Ram has brought in, and later in the year the group are planning a show of naked art. They have four or five artists already on board for that.
“It’s going to be quite risqué,” says Smith.
The plan is to exhibit work across all media and especially digital. Each exhibition will also have tie in workshops outside in the courtyard. They have already held street art workshops for children during Beastie Toys and the naked exhibition will see body painting workshops for adults.
As one of the biggest private galleries in the city with two floors and an outdoor area and a suprisingly industrial vibe for the North Laine, The Warehouse Gallery has a lot of potential.
Kevin Smith highlights that it is still work in progress, but he is cautiously optimistic about the gallery’s future: “I think it should work. On paper it looks like it should work. But it might snow 20 foot of snow tomorrow and nobody comes in for two weeks.”
To find out if it does, watch this space. Or rather, visit this space and have a look for yourself.