Public curate exhibition to give a window on to the art world

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AN INNOVATIVE gallery has brought art to an Edinburgh community during lockdown – by turning its windows into an exhibition curated by passers-by.

Staff were inspired to launch the public handover after spotting a rise in hand and finger prints on the outside of the windows at Morningside Gallery.

Now the window display changes every day and the gallery owner says she has been amazed by the flood of messages and requests from passers-by requesting their favourite pieces to be put on show.

As an added bonus, Eileadh Swan, 36, says the move has also helped the gallery sell various paintings and artworks, a vital lifeline while the business world is on enforced shut down.

Eileadh Swan, owner of Morningside Gallery, in front of an artwork in the Morningside Road venue.

The mum-of-one, who has worked in the gallery since 2006 and became owner in 2018, said: “It’s amazing how this has taken off and it is actually a lot of fun. When the lockdown started, like most businesses our initial feeling was one of panic and doom, but that quickly gave way to a feeling of determination.

“It very quickly became clear that our trusty window displays could be the saving of us because we noticed more and more fingerprints on the glass where people had been peering in.

“Then we began getting emails from clients saying that our displays cheered them up on their daily walks. However, our real moment of inspiration came when someone emailed to say that they’d seen a painting on our website and wished they could see it in real life. 

“That was our lightbulb moment that we should put it in the window – and so it developed. We sent out an email to our clients to say that the windows were essentially theirs and they could send us their viewing choices. 

“Over the last few weeks we’ve changed the windows frequently, putting in small unframed paintings on mini easels, large oil paintings, anything and everything really.”

Before lockdown Eileadh, along with gallery manager Sally Pattrick, 36, would carefully curate window displays around harmonious colours or specific themes.

She added: “We’ve gone from that to having all sorts of small paintings, framed paintings, glass and ceramics all jostling and competing for attention. Things get swapped round, rejected, moved into a different light.

“From a business point of view this has also resulted in some sales along the way – and at a time like this, every sale is vital for us.

“But the best part of this whole thing is that it is actually great fun and it’s been surprisingly liberating handing over curatorial control to our customers.”

Among the customers who have made requests for artworks to appear in the windows is Barry Turner, from Dalry in Edinburgh, who also bought a painting on the strength of the changing daily display.

Sally Pattrick, manager of Morningside Gallery in Edinburgh, pictured rearranging the window display.

Barry Turner said: ‘It was great to see the painting we’d spotted on the gallery’s excellent website in natural light and the ordering and delivery couldn’t have been easier.  We look forward to the gallery opening again soon but until then this is a brilliant idea and service.”

Eileadh and Sally take turn about to visit the gallery and make the changes in the popular window display. They also say the old-fashioned window exhibition has augmented the gallery’s more hi-tech changes which are also helping it to survive the lockdown period.

Eileadh added: “we’ve been lucky because while we’ve had to close to the public, we’ve still been able to trade online. Unlike some other sectors there has been some wriggle room and some space for innovation. 

“We’ve been able to think outside the box a bit and finally get to work on developing aspects of the business that have always been in the background. For example, we finally got around to getting our ‘view on a wall’ feature live on the website. 

“Sally is our expert in using photoshop and she has been busy creating room visualisations for customers. They send us photographs of their living room and Sally is able to feature paintings that customers like hanging on their walls. A sort of virtual home approval service.”

 
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