Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Threadneedle Space Exhibition

This week Lachlan Goudie and Tim Benson are exhibiting new paintings in the Threadneedle Space at the Mall Galleries.

I've seen quite a few exhibitions in the Space now by FBA Artists and others and have always wondered what's involved in running your own exhibition - so this week I asked!

[Note: This post has been updated since first published last night - I thought of a few more things to say and show when I woke up!]

Lachlan Goudie and Tim Benson with New Paintingsin the Threadneedle Space at the Mall Galleries
continues until 28 March
Tim came up with the idea of putting on an exhibition.

Motivation related to testing out whether he could do as well as a gallery at selling his artwork. Renting a gallery space instantly eliminates the 50% commission on sales which most galleries charge. Plus if you put on your own show, you get to curate the show and decide what work is hung and how it is displayed!

Still Lifes by Lachlan Goudie and Landscape by Tim Benson
The rationale for using the Threadneedle Space is that it's a great location with good footfall - plus it also has the spinoff of visitors who have come to see the other exhibitions. It's also got a great hanging team and the reception staff can handle the sales.  Moreover as FBA artists they're eligible for a discount on the weekly fee for the Threadneedle Space (£7k + VAT).

As Tim pointed out for one artist, even with a discount, that's still quite a hefty sum. However it makes much more sense if you do a Joint Show with another artist. For example, it makes it very easy to calculate how many paintings you need to sell to offset the costs of an exhibition and move into profit.  Plus two people can share the workload involved.

The rationale for their partnership for the show was that they were of a similar age, their work was sympathetic i.e. bold, colourful and painterly; their subject matter was complementary. Plus they are both members of the ROI.

Rocky Headland, Cap Spartel, Tangier
Tim Benson VPROI
Once they had decided to do the show - at the end of August - they asked for a slot. They decided that they wanted to have an exhibition at the same time as an art society generating a lot of traffic - and so they got this week - which coincides with all the people visiting the first week of the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours.

Asking for a slot sounds simple. The reality is that all proposals for shows - and the standard of the artwork - are vetted by the Mall Galleries. Not everybody gets offered a slot.......

Aussie Dawn
Tim Benson VPROI
(top) Love and Lies and (bottom) Obsession
Lachlan Goudie ROI

What the Threadneedle Space offers

You can read about the metrics and rates associated with the different Spaces in the Gallery Hire brochure. Their Hire Rates include:
  • Air-conditioned galleries 
  • Alcohol Licence / CafĂ© / Cloakroom / Front of house staff 
  • Liaison with gallery management 
  • Lighting: perfect colour rendering & low energy 
  • Receptionist to answer visitor enquiries and process sales (although some art societies I know who hire the North Gallery process their own sales)
  • Security for the artwork (this is not an insignificant concern for the artist running a solo show - it means you don't have to be there all the time - and I have known artists who have lost work when using non-gallery space elsewhere for exhibitions)
  • Basic PA System / Use of LCD display screen and lighting / Wireless internet connection 

What publicity services are on offer

The Gallery rates page does not mention the publicity side of things. However elsewhere in the brochure it makes clear that the your exhibition is included in 
  • the ‘What’s On’ section of the Mall Galleries’ website - which seems to mean you get a page on the website for the event and listing on the main events page as either a current or upcoming exhibition
  • the six monthly 'What’s On?' booklet - avidly read by Mall Galleries regulars and picked up by ad hoc gallery visitors (so long as they provide text and images in time)
  • mentions of current events on the Mall Galleries’ social media platforms (Facebook PageTwitter; YouTube (make a video of your show!) Instagram and Pinterest)
I also checked with the Gallery's Publicity Officer and she confirmed the following:
  • FBA members ONLY are able to have their works online on the Mall Galleries website - as this is a privilege available to members (this service is not available to external hirers)
  • News of exhibitions by external hirers can be included the E-newsletter that goes out to a mailing list of over 17,500 addresses.  The cost for a slot in an e-newsletter is £150 + VAT
  • mail outs of flyers for external hirers is not offered
Third party exhibitions are listed alongside the core exhibitions by the FBA Societies
on the Mall Galleries website event page

The actual Event Page on the Mall Galleries website
- featuring core info plus all the paintings in the show

This is an Instagram image from another show in the Threadneedle Space by Andrew Stock, the ex President of the Society of Wildlife Artists.
A photo posted by Mall Galleries (@mallgalleries) on

Their hire rates do NOT include:

  • Commission. Artists will be pleased to know that this is a "no commission" option - instead you pay a fee for the hire of the space and gallery services. Essentially you are paying for the overheads that the commission pays for - but in a different way which gives you more control over your own exhibition
  • Mail out of any flyers for the hire of the gallery by third parties  
  • Your Private View 'catering costs' - although I'm sure they can quote you the prices their caterers offer for catering for a PV.  However, in a small space it's not difficult to organise your own glasses hire and buy in wine etc.
  • VAT - this is always additional to the fee. VAT on sales is not specifically mentioned in the brochure, however all sales via the Gallery are always vattable in exactly the same way as they are with any other decent gallery.  That's because VAT is on gross turnover by the gallery and any decent gallery should always be exceeding the VAT threshold on an annual basis!

The Threadneedle Space also has new lighting system which has eliminated the slight cold bluish tinge associated with the first lighting system. The space now looks a lot warmer but the lighting is still neutral for the paintings.

What I like about the space is that the paintings always look good in it - and the polished concrete floor reflects the colours of the paintings!

For the record I really like Tim's landscapes and Lachlan's flowers!


I think getting together with a compatible fellow artist or a small group of friends to explore holding a show in London - in the Threadneedle Space - is an absolute no-brainer given the location, footfall, gallery services and publicity machine on offer. Just so long as you are displaying first rate paintings, prints, drawings and sculpture which are compatible with the space - and you can get a good slot.


  1. Don't forget that you would still need publicity, also if you had a PV does the artist pay for that or the gallery, plus all of the work that a good gallery does to make sales for their artists... Maybe we should do an interview from the perspective of the gallery and how they earn their commission. It's very interesting Katherine, I always wondered what that space cost. And the other fascinating thing is how many people add up the red dots and think that the artist gets all of the money!

  2. I think you know and I know and a lot of other artists know that the amount of effort and expertise that galleries use to earn their 50% commission can be extremely variable!

    For example, some galleries are very switched on, understand the point of social media and the value of taking work to art fairs etc while others haven't budged on how they market in the last 20 years.

    The artist has to pay for the Private View (that's not included in the price) but that essentially is as much or as little as you want.

    So far as advertising is concerned, the Mall Galleries probably has one of the best mailing lists in the business. Plus the cost is going to be incremental in the sense that it won't be a one-off mail-out where you're paying for the postage as well. Your publicity flyer goes in with their normal mail-out. (But I'll ask how that works because that's my understanding rather than stated fact on the website).

    Since we're talking the role of galleries and what they do to earn their commission, the option that I think is very much under-exploited at present in the Threadneedle Space is the out of town gallery bringing their artists to London for a group exhibition for a week or so! ;) Or the art dealer who has given up having a B&M gallery and periodically needs a space to showcase the artists on his books.

    BTW I think part of the package also includes an event page - with gallery on the Mall Galleries website. They have a complete virtual exhibition online! (I'll check on that one as well).


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