John, our wonderful Gallery & Events Manager has been looking after Mall Galleries for over 30 years. We chat to him about his experiences over the years, his love of working here and he reveals a few of his memorable moments.
This interview first appeared in the Friends' Quarterly Newsletter. If you would like to recieve these emails sign up as Friend of Mall Galleries today.
What’s it been like working at Mall Galleries for 30 years?
Honestly? I would say exhausting! But the most amazing fun, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss any of my time here.
It’s a full on role, very stimulating and exciting as everything changes so often and so quickly – but that’s what makes it always interesting to be here.
I love all the people that visit the gallery. Our Friends are wonderful, I’ve gotten to know so many of them personally over the years. I’ve also become great friends with many of the member artists. It’s wonderful to be able to see artists' styles and careers develop over the years.
How many people can say they get paid to do a job they love? Chatting to people they really like and organizing amazing events. I feel very privileged to have done this job.
How did you manage to get to work here and be promoted to Gallery and Events Manager …and what did you do before you started?
I originally worked in engineering and then for a technical publications business (nowhere near as inspiring as working at Mall Galleries!).
My first introduction to Mall Galleries was roughly in 1983 when I started occasionally helping a friend out when it was busy here, just as a favour – he was working as the Weekend Manager, so I would help out on the gallery desk, welcoming visitors and selling paintings.
After several years of helping out on an ad hoc basis, I distinctly remember the date and time: it was 9.50am on 20th February 1985, and Oliver Warman (the then CEO and an RBA member) and I had been chatting about the future of the FBA (there were 16 member societies then) and he was so impressed with my knowledge of what went on here that he offered me the role of full time Gallery Manager, on the spot!
Then in 1996, the Events Manager left and I took on that role as well and I’ve done both ever since.
Can you tell us about any memorable moments here?
There have been so many, but perhaps one of the great ones was the centenary show from the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, curated by the wonderful Daphne Todd PPRP. Her Majesty, the Queen opened the show …that was quite a moment!
I’ve also enjoyed working on some of the major prize shows such as the Threadneedle Prize and the Discerning Eye, they are always incredibly fun to organize.
Any memorable ones for the ‘wrong’ reason?
Ah, yes, there was another RP show where the Prince of Wales was visiting and due to make a speech.
Just hours before he arrived, we were checking the PA system, for the umpteenth time …and it literally blew up! Total panic!
Luckily, we managed to find a very helpful company who put a temporary one in and it started working just as Prince Charles arrived. It was definitely one where I was on tenterhooks until I knew for sure it would all be sorted.
Any final comments?
Only that with constant improvements to the galleries and benefits to our Friends, Artists and Clients, I feel Mall Galleries has a great future.
I still feel privileged to work with such a small team of similarly enthusiastic members of staff.