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A new temporary contemporary art gallery has opened on Market Street in Leicester. Andrew Birks, the artist behind the gallery tells us about the space and the artists involved.

Where did the idea for a new studio/art gallery come about?

Leicester doesn't have a dedicated art gallery in the city centre, yes there are galleries and exhibition spaces, but they are down a side street or on a university campus. I wanted to do something in the City Centre where everyone can see it, and freely walk in off the street to look around. The idea is not a new one really, pop up galleries have been done all over the place. I did one in Leicester when I was a student back in 1999, that was on Cank Street. It worked, and I thought it would be good to revisit the idea.

So as I've said, the idea was mine and I'm leading the project, but I'm not alone. I have joined the Company of Artists. This is a new charitable interest company formed by Steven Allbutt, who is also the joint Director (with his wife Yuka Namekawa) of Studioname. Steve has joined me by match funding the initial investment to get the project off the ground, but more important I think, is the belief, dedication and energy that has gone in so far! Other members of the Company of Artists are: Loz Atkinson, Tim Fowler, Matt Macken, Lucy Stevens and Tom Van Herrewege. All full time artists based in Studioname, Leicester.

Tell us a little about the location.

The building is beautiful, Victorian, built in 1876 in the "Italianate Style". I was really surprised when I first saw it; an old betting shop hiding this secret hall with its elaborate dark wood beams, going up to around 15 metres in height. On the ground level It's been stripped out already with clean white walls, ready to show artwork, although there's a bit more work to do before we are ready to open.

The location is 16 Market Street; this is a street that has suffered over the last few years with one business after another closing or leaving. I suspect it's something to do with the expansion of the nearby Highcross Shopping Centre, but still, it's a great street, pedestrianised, with many other beautiful buildings- look up when you walk down there!

I hope that this project can help to kick off the rejuvenation of this street and bring something really positive to the City. This is the City I grew up in, I'm quite proud of it and I want good things to happen, so I'm trying to make it happen rather than wait for someone else to do it.

What can the public expect from the new gallery?

What you can expect once we open is good contemporary art essentially. It kicks off with a group show of work by members of the Company of Artists. The rest of the program is still being developed, but it should include installation, solo shows, an open call exhibition and more. This will be supplemented by events that include spoken word, poetry and music.

Art work will be for sale; if you are in the market for a striking piece of contemporary art for your home or business, come down to the gallery, speak to the artists. There will be something that works for you either on show or back in the studio.

I think it's important to say that this gallery is temporary, it's only for a year initially. This has been made possible partly through the generosity of the building's owners. If it is successful, there will definitely be more, whether in the same location or another.

Leicester Contemporary is now open until 9th July 2021.

Follow @leicestercontemporary on Instagram for news.


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