Mall Galleries news

John Deston: Thirty Years at Mall Galleries

John Deston Mall Galleries

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.

Royal Society of Marine Artists Call for Entries

The Royal Society of Marine Artists Annual Exhibition is open for submission from 6 April, 12 Noon. 

The RSMA seeks submissions of painting and sculpture that involve the sea and the marine environment, including harbours and shorelines, traditional craft and contemporary shipping, creeks, beaches, wildlife - in short anything that involves tidal water. 

If you are thinking of submitting work to this years RSMA Open Annual Exhibition then the Prize Winners from the 2014 exhibition, listed below, may help you decide what to submit this year. Of the eight prizes awarded last year five were awarded to non-member artists who came through the pre-selection process. 

For more information about how to submit to the Royal Society of Marine Artists visit the Call for Entries page. 

The Artists Magazine Award

Douglas Gray RSMA - Cromer Point

The Charles Pears Award

Jamal Akib - Pull

The Classic Boat Prize

Brian Jones - Lulworth, Mariquita and Moonbeam

The R K Burt Canson And Arches Award

John Lines RSMA - River Tree Departure

The Russell & Chapple Prize

Keith Noble RSMA - Sunset, Rye Harbour

The Sea Pictures Gallery Award

Brian A Collins - Sea Trials II

The Derek Gardner 'Sea and Sky' Award

Robert Grimson - The Kathleen & May in Mounts Bay

The Irish Ambassador hosts Press Conference to launch first exhibition of Irish Art in UK for over 30 years

Art of a Nation Michael Portilo

Our major forthcoming loan exhibition, ‘The Art of a Nation: Irish Works from the Allied Irish Banks and Crawford Art Gallery Collections’, was announced on Monday at a special press conference held in the Irish Embassy.  Ireland’s Ambassador, Mr Daniel Mulhall, was joined for the occasion by AIB chairman Richard Pym and Mall Galleries’ chairman Michael Portillo.  

The exhibition, which opens at Mall Galleries on 13 May 2015, offers gallery visitors in London and across the UK with their first opportunity in over thirty years to view an outstanding collection of Irish painting, sculpture and photography covering the period 1900 to the present day. 

During the twentieth century, many Irish artists studied or practised in England before returning to put the ‘Irishness’ into Irish art.  Some of these artists exhibited with the same art societies that still exhibit at Mall Galleries each year: Aloysius O’Kelly exhibited with the ROI, the RI and the RBA; Roderic O’Conor, Sir William Orpen and Sir John Lavery all exhibited with the NEAC; Letitia Hamilton and F.E. McWilliam both exhibited with the RBA.  Director Lewis McNaught speaking at the conference drew attention to these strong historic links that exist between the art societies that exhibit at Mall Galleries today and those many Irish artists who exhibited with these same societies in the past.

Some of the artists in ‘The Art of a Nation’ will be familiar to UK gallery visitors, like Jack B Yeats, Sir William Orpen, William Scott, Willie Doherty and Sean Scully.  Others will be less familiar, but they contributed no less to Ireland’s rich culture and heritage. As yesterday’s column in The Irish Times noted, ‘it’s especially valuable that the work of such higher profile figures will be seen in its immediate context, historically and communally’.

Make sure you check our Events pages for full details of special events during the exhibition, open daily 10am-5pm from May 13-31.



1) Mall Galleries chairman Michael Portillo, AIB chairman Richard Pym and the Irish Ambassador Daniel Mulhall

2) A selection of paintings from the exhibition was available to demonstrate the range and quality of the collection

3) Anthony J Lester, co-curator of the exhibition, discusses ‘Corpus Christi Procession’ (1880) by Aloysius O’Kelly


Photo credits: Andy Barnham ( 

ArtStart Project with Eastside Educational Trust

A fun video with ArtStart project participants from London Fields Primary School, created by our friends at Eastside. The group visited the 2014 Threadneedle Prize and spent a day exploring the exhibition and discovering what goes on behind the scenes at Mall Galleries.





Pastel Society Prize Winners

Pastel Society

The Pastel Society's 116th Annaul Exhibition was opened by English critic and author John Taylor Russell

John Russell presented the Awards for 2015 including the new prestigious Alfred Teddy Smith and Zsuzsi Roboz Award for a Young Artist. The award is a bequest in memory of Zsuzsi Roboz, who was a distinguished member of the Pastel Society. A piece of her work can be seen in the gallery.

The Award was won by Mike Clapton for his work 'Take Care'

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The Pastel Society would also like to thank the excellent support from the Award Givers and their Sponsors Caran d'Ache

Cheryl Culver, President of the Pastel Society, writing in the exhibition catalogue takes the opportunity to "thank all of them; their generosity both in the time they give and the prizes they donate". 

The Prize Winners

Caran d'Ache Award 

Michael Norman PS 

Dusk at Turf Locks

Commissions this artist

Daler Rowney Award

Felicity House PS

Oxfords The Baker

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Derwent Award

Joanne Last

Summer Walk

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Conté à Paris Award

Caroline Bays PS

Rock Star

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Unison Colour Award

Jan Munro

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The Artist Magazine Award

Jan Munro

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Artists & Illustrators Magazine Award

Tony Allain

Campanille, Venice

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Henri Roché Award

Matthew Draper PS

Sublime Adventure

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Schmincke Award

Christine Watson

Purple Shutter

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The Arts Club Charitable Trust Award

Jenny Smith


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Buzzacott Award

Joanne Last

Almost There

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Faber Castell Award

Melodie Cook

Nancy Trotter Landry and Bobby

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Frank Herring & Sons Award

Barry Freeman

Dusk – Spa Hill

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The Annie Longley Award

Richard Turner

Seasons Change

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Pan Pastel

Liz Balkwill


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The Pastel Society Catalogue Award, First Prize

Jaana Fowler

Late Night Still Life

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The Pastel Society Young Artist Award

Qiaoxi Chen

The Bird

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Image credit

Matthew Draper PS, Sublime Adventures

RBA Rising Stars

RBA Rising Stars

The Royal Society of British Artists is showcasing work by younger artists and students at Lloyd's Register Gallery from 4 Feb to 5 March 2015

Mall Galleries Christmas Party

What a Wonderful Christmas…

Thank you to everyone who attended the Friends of Mall Galleries Christmas Party last night. It was a resounding success with 250 guests attending, along with our Chairman, the Rt Hon. Michael Portillo.

The night started with an exciting treasure hunt, taking guests on a tour of the fabulous NEAC exhibition. We had Christmas music in the Main Gallery, sung by the wonderful soprano, Tora Willson; a brilliant solo guitarist, Joe Gravil, in the North Galleries; plus the amazing Pete Hathaway - close-up magician extraordinaire - bringing gasps of amazement as he made engagement rings disappear, only to be found attached to a keyring, in a sealed envelope, in someone else’s pocket!

The popular Tom Coates RP PS Hon RBA NEAC carried out a painting demonstration and the delightful Melissa Scott-Miller RP NEAC led the way in painting your own Christmas Cards.


Finally at the end of the evening we drew the ‘star studded’ raffle winners. Congratulations the following prize winners:

Tom Stokes on winning the very rare watercolour by Ken Howard OBE RA NEAC RWS

Fran and her daughter Sarah Evans on winning the beautiful etching by Richard Bawden NEAC

Dorothy Hill on winning the book on British Watercolours

For those of you who didn’t manage to attend this time, please put the Summer Party in your diary: 23rd June 2015. Tickets will be just £14 for Mall Galleries’ Friends and £20 for their guests or non-Friends.

William Bowyer NEAC RP

William Bowyer NEAC RP
Mall Galleries talks to William Bowyer about his approach to painting and teaching. He also talks about the New English Art Club and his love of cricket.

Bob Brown NEAC

Mall Galleries talks to Bob Brown about his approach to painting and his career. He also talks about the travels his art has taken him on and importance of the New English Art Club to his career as a painter

Robert Gillmor SWLA

To celebrate 50 years of the Society of Wildlife Artists, founding member, Robert Gillmor discusses the early years of the Society, it’s Membership within the Federation of British Artists and his own career.

Robert also talks about his Printing Press that was featured in the Great Exhibition of 1851.