' I think, that if I touched the earth,
It would crumble;
It is so sad and beautiful,
So tremulously like a dream.'


EXPLORE: The Contemporary art gallery, Chester

Chester's newest gallery is the very picture of success.

Local founder of The Contemporary, Jonathan Shingfield, originally planned to open six pop up galleries in different cities, including Chester - but this all changed when a beautiful townhouse on Watergate Street caught his eye whilst he was out driving one day. 

After that came the six-week-long challenge of stripping back the building and transforming it into a minimalist art space, before finally opening its doors to the public two months ago.  

Now, The Contemporary's three floors are home to over one hundred pieces of art from stunning original paintings and bespoke commissions to limited edition prints.

Jonathan reveals that, while at university, he blew all the money he earned from work placements on art, then just kept on buying. “I started collecting too much. My missus would come home and I’d say: ‘Look! I just bought this, it’s really cool!’ And her reply was: ‘I’m sure it is, but we haven’t got room for the ones you’ve already got’ – which is when I came up with the idea of renting out my collection.” 

This concept took shape a year and a half ago as the art rentals service ‘Hung’, and would go on to form the founding principles of the new gallery, with its pieces now available to rent from as little as £10 per month.

Admission is free, the aim being to encourage people from all walks of life to really engage with modern art. Jonathan hopes to expand and open numerous commercial galleries across the North West, starting with a site in Knutsford, whilst retaining the Chester location as The Contemporary’s flagship site: “we’re going to have loads of originals here, loads of shows, loads of fun.”

“Artists are an absolute pleasure to deal with,” says Jonathan, “they’re so lovely, so accommodating – it’s unbelievable how cool they are.” The collection is currently exhibiting work by internationally renowned British artists – including former Vivienne Westwood designer, Magnus Gjoen – as well as by several local artists, one of whom specifically wishes to remain anonymous so as to gauge what the public really thinks of his work at exhibitions. Chester’s very own answer to Banksy will be creating pieces for a Street Art show at the gallery next year, where graffiti classes will also be on offer.

 “It’s like having kids, isn’t it?” Jonathan confesses when asked if he has any favourite paintings amongst those on display. “It changes all the time. My favourite piece at the moment is a big Michael Jackson painting by Mike Edwards that is covered in kind of diamond dust. It’s the first piece I've commissioned myself though, so I’m biased!”

Starting in 2015, The Contemporary will be holding monthly art shows, starting with an exhibition of work from students at Sir John Deane’s College, and going on to focus on a different featured artist at each event.

 The gallery will also be hosting a special VIP Christmas gathering with mulled wine and mince pies on the 4th December, from which 10% of any sales proceeds will go to the Baby Grow appeal aiming to raise funds to build a new Neonatal Unit at The Countess of Chester hospital.

“Art is getting bigger and better in the city all the time and the more the economy recovers, the more confident people are in art and wanting to invest in it. We are here to show Chester something different and engaging and look forward to exhibiting things it has never seen before.”

To find out more about purchasing/renting art from The Contemporary, to arrange a private tour of the gallery, or to join the guest list for its upcoming Christmas event, call 01244 950553, visit www.thecontemporarychester.com

The Contemporary, 92 Watergate street, Chester, CH1 2LN

Floating Audrey by Pure Evil
Abraham & Isaac by local artist, Jay Hurst
Divine Retributuion by Marcus Gjoen,
former Vivienne Westwood designer

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