A look at the thriving art scene in Altrincham
- Credit: Pics; John Cocks
Altrincham’s thriving creative scene makes it the go-to destination for anyone looking to buy a piece of personal art – we visit four of its gallery owners.
It's one of the most successful regeneration stories of any UK high street. Altrincham's now nationally-regarded food market was the first chapter in transforming a once slightly drab and disregarded town centre into a vibrant social hub - and now, thanks to the inevitable effect of all that extra footfall - a go-to shopping destination too. Its mix of high-street stalwarts and exciting, local independents is a masterpiece of High-Street success.
And talking of masterpieces - its next stage of evolution as Cheshire's artistic centre is well under way. As young creatives flock to the area, empty spaces are frequently converted into dedicated artist studios, the Altrincham Society of Artists - one of the most highly regarded societies of its kind - now has more than 150 members. And even one of the famous Manchester Bees has made it out this way, bought by, and now taking pride of place outside of, Myserson Solicitors (head to Barrington Road to spot Caroline Daly's fluorescent creation; number one of the 77 Manchester Bees). But the most palpable sign of Altrincham's buzzing (sorry, we had to) art scene is its High Street's galleries; their bookending of its strip of cafes, local shops and restaurants practically symbolic of how key art is to Altrincham's unique culture.
So, should you be in the market for a piece of art, Altrincham should be your first stop. But to many of us, buying art can be an intimidating process; lots of us would rather go to the dentist than step inside a gallery. Maybe that's because we associate them with a reverential atmosphere, worry that somehow our lack of knowledge will be exposed to a hipster proprietor or - possibly even worse - that we will be carried away and leave with a painting that will cost more to insure than the car. Fear not, Altrincham's friendly art dealers are here to bust those myths and share their expertise. Read on...
County Galleries, Railway Street
Situated in the grand surroundings of what used to be the County Bank, this is the oldest and most traditional of Altrincham's art galleries. Owned by Chris and Rachael Underwood, they stock originals and prints by known and emerging artists.
'We enjoy telling people about them but we don't approach anyone until they give us a nod. We have many returning clients, especially as investing in art becomes ever more popular, but we are also seeing new faces which is fabulous,' explains Chris. 'We allow clients to take a piece home before committing to its purchase because, investment or not, you have to be able to live with it.'
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Art with a Heart, New Street
Run by artist Karen Wroe since 2012, this gallery combines a space for the community to make art and has Altrincham's only dedicated gallery to the town's acclaimed artist, George Allen who painted up to his death in 1993 and was known for his scenes of Cheshire and particularly his hometown.
'We have people from all over the world visiting the George Allen Gallery; we can even arrange for them to meet his son which makes for a unique experience,' says Karen. The gallery also has a resident artist, Daniel Adler, who lives with Aspergers and has used art to document his journey. He has his own dedicated following with several of his pieces flying out, almost as soon as they are hung,
Air Gallery, Grosvenor Road
Opened in 2017, Air Gallery deals with contemporary pieces and also provides studio space for artists. Run by Rebecca Wild and Alan Baker, they have a huge social media following throughout the UK and often showcase more experimental art.
'Many of our artists are international names but sometimes it is possible to pick up pieces by emerging artists who may very well be the big names of the future,' says Alan. 'Use social media and ask us for advice but remember, no-one knows for certain.'
Bowdon Fine Art
This on-line gallery is run by Colin Palmer, a dealer who cut his teeth in prestigious auction houses such as Bonhams and Phillips. With an emphasis on Northern art, Colin is also keen to showcase works that provide investment potential.
'Buying art on-line is becoming increasingly popular, with clients able to browse the catalogue at home but I'm happy to meet people in my Altrincham premises if they want to see a painting, 'in the flesh',' he says. 'Don't be dazzled by paintings that sell for millions, a respectable collection can begin with much less.'