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Mostyn Gallery, North Wales. Being at the periphery of the art market is a blessing

Llandudno, a seaside town. Lady Augusta Mostyn gave the first donation – in 2010, the gallery reopened its doors after a £5 million refurbishment

Behind the listed Edwardian facade, which follows suit with the architectural style of its neighbors and the town, lies the contemporary gallery space called Mostyn. Publicly funded since its beginnings, it first opened in 1901 and remained active until 1913. Within those years, various artworks were exhibited by the Gwynedd Ladies Art Society (GLAS) who, after being denied the possibility to show their works due to their gender, were welcomed at the Mostyn Art Gallery. The founding member was Lady Augusta Mostyn, a philanthropist who gave the gallery its first donation to ensure that it would continue with its promotion of local and female artists. Years later, in 2010, the gallery reopened its doors after a £5 million refurbishment, financed in part by the Arts Council of Wales, and with the renovation the gallery decided to rename itself Mostyn. The renovation project, led by Ellis Williams Architects, won several prizes in 2011, such as the RIBA Award (Royal Institute of British Architects) and the Gold Medal for Architecture from the National Eisteddfod of Wales. The work included the refurbishment and expansion of six gallery spaces, the creation of a café, shop, storage and educational spaces, covering a total of 2,000 square meters. The internal design contrasts with its historical exterior, with the use of burnished concrete and open spaces accessible to sunlight. A peculiarity of the building is the ‘Tube’, a concrete gorge which connects the two floors.

In the decade since its reopening, Mostyn has hosted solo and group shows dedicated to both Welsh and international names in contemporary art, such as David Nash, Sean Edwards, Irma Blank, Franco Vaccari, Elisabetta Benassi. Director and curator Alfredo Cramerotti: «We first centered the program on the idea of ‘conversation’ (between artists, artists and audiences, and between different media and formats); we then steered the wheel on the effects of these conversations, namely, on what inspires and encourages people to form and share perspectives on the world through our programs. We want people to ‘use’ us to form opinions through the lens of contemporary art via exhibitions, lectures, digital and public programs». Mostyn’s aim is to create a space for collecting intelligence. In regard to the gallery’s location in Llandudno, Cramerotti noted that «being at the periphery of the art market is a blessing. It allows the detachedness and the time to assess things without being caught in the heat of the discussion, which often skews the vision of things. Mostyn has much less ‘competition’ for attention than art spaces in London, thus there’s media coverage for what we present». Mostyn’s dedication to exhibiting contemporary art in a satellite location has definitely paid off, as proven by over one hundred thousand annual visits, with two-thirds of visitors coming from outside the local area, and by the generation of over £600,000 of annual economic value for the local area (Local Government Association, February 2019). In addition to the exhibitions and educational programs, Mostyn organizes the multi-arts festival Llawn – Llandudno Arts Weekend, with the aim to engage further with a wider demographic. By reaching out to more people, the space continues to grow and accommodate. Accessibility and respect for local sensitivity are a priority, as suggested by the gallery’s bilingual use of Welsh and English throughout the exhibitions, materials and online content.         

Strange Things, Catherine Large, Image Michelle Bowden, Visuall

The offer of contemporary art in North Wales has evolved in recent years due to Mostyn’s presence and work, demonstrating that art can and will survive without the need of a city backdrop. Other young collaborative projects emerged after Mostyn’s success are Periclo, Studio Cybi and North Wales Contemporary / Cyfoes Gogledd Cymru. These various projects show the country’s need to have an independent art scene, free from the restraints of a city like Cardiff or London.

IMAGE GALLERY

Mostyn Gallery
12 Vaughan Street
Llandudno
Wales, UK

Glesni Trefor Williams

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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