Bristol’s Art Gallery Crawl: 17 Galleries In One Day
Last week we went on an Art Gallery Crawl, visiting 17 different art galleries that ranged from the vast Spike Island to the cosy Paper Plane.
I set out with Antonia and Holly on Bristol’s first (that I’m aware of) Art Gallery Crawl.
Bristol has a lot of art galleries. Be it small independent spaces in converted front rooms or large international centres for contemporary art, there are a lot of them. There are times when it feels as though some new exhibition opens every week. But is it possible to see them all in a day? How many galleries can you visit in a day? I set out with Antonia and Holly on Bristol’s first (that I’m aware of) Art Gallery Crawl.
We used our bikes for transport and, aside from snacks on the way, managed to get by without spending anything. We travelled over 10 miles, visited 17 different art galleries and only threw our bikes to the floor once in 7 hours. On 1st April 2016, we headed out to get round as many galleries as possible, starting with…
Our day kicked off at Paper Plane. It’s a shop/gallery space and co-operative made up of seven members on the Gloucester Road. They’ve converted the back room of the shop into an exhibition room that features a different artist every month. This month, it’s the work of Boodle Boutique and Aly Dalrymple and we love the work. It’s a great mix of the two illustration styles that we think goes perfectly together.
It’s All 2 Much
Next up, we’ve got the It’s All 2 Much Gallery in Stokes Croft. Chris – the owner – greeted us warmly as we arrived and after name-dropping his mates Cheba, Massive Attack, Inkie and Kasabian, he proceeded to tell us about the gallery. It was founded by a group of people all interested in the arts and music. The gallery featured work from street artists big and small, and with a studio space out the back – it definitely seemed as though they had a lot going on.
Gallery Twenty Two
Gallery Twenty Two is a new gallery to Stokes Croft. It opened this February and we were there just in time for the end of their second exhibition: Stoke. It’s such a cool exhibition space, with a massive window onto the street making for a light and airy interior. Stoke featured the work of the artists Phil King, Charley Peters and Pascal Michel Dubois. We all loved the gallery and are so excited to see what’s on next.
PAPER Arts is a gallery that seems to have SO much more to it than just a gallery. There’s a independent shop next to it, a cafe, artists studios upstairs, it’s own printing service and more workshops than you can know what to do with. Basically – it’s the place to be in the centre of Bristol. Within/Without is their current exhibition featuring work by Cardiff School of Art and Design students. It’s predominantly illustration based, but there is such a range of mediums and styles, so there’s sure to be something for everyone.
STUDENTS OF CARDIFF SCHOOL OF ART & DESIGN
**BONUS ROUND** The Crazy Fox Coffee Bar
By this point, we were starting to feel worn out, so we popped into the Crazy Fox Coffee Bar for a caffeine boost. This isn’t any old coffee shop though as they exhibit the work of some of Bristol’s artists. Again, there was a huge range of work here and it’s impossible to sum it up in one sentance, but there’s bound to be at least one piece that appeals to you. Coffee’d up, we set off again.
East Bristol Contemporary
East Bristol Contemporary is another new gallery and we managed to get a sneak peek at their third exhibition (EBC003) which they were busy setting up for the launch that night. The gallery is a part of the Trinity Centre and is located at the top in a beautifully open space. It opened at the start of the year with the aim of counteracting the lack of established showing spaces for grassroots contemporary artists in Bristol. I’m excited to see what they have to offer with their next few shows.
Continuing the trend of visiting newly opened galleries, we swung by SPACE next on Old Market. We were the first visitors to this gallery run by The Island, and they were still sticking up the vinyl when we arrived. We were shown round the new space by Dina (who we all decided we loved by the way). They’ve got an exhibition space downstairs and a meeting/workshop room upstairs – both of which feel light and inviting. Their first exhibition is on the history of Old Market – recounting it’s growth and change over the years. They’ve even got Edson Burton performing there on the 8th April. And speaking of The Island, our next stop was…
It’s unbelievable how much there is to The Island. We went in expecting to have a look round their gallery space, but there was so much more on offer than just a gallery space. Tina who worked there showed us round, starting with the circus space and dance hall at the top of the building, down through the studios throughout, then into the cells where they hold parties where they used to lock up prisoners. If you thought there was a lot going on at PAPER Arts, then you’ll be wow’d by this. It was exciting to see everything that they had going on in the building.
The exhibition itself was great too. Flirt was an exhibition that questioned and engaged with ideas around gender, the human condition, feminism, masochism, fame and fortune to name a few.
As we were starting to fall behind in our schedule, we visited The Station to check out their small exhibition space. In there, they had an exhibition from Monika Balukevičiūtė – an artist and student from Lithuania – which explored how colour affects the images we see. Luckily, we managed to catch the exhibition on the day before it finished. Despite the exhibition space at The Station being small, it seemed it was still big enough to show off work there.
Centrespace was another gallery that we were lucky enough to get a sneak peek of their new exhibition during the installation. The gallery is tucked away in the heart of Bristol’s old town, amongst the colletion of buildings around St Nicks, and after snaking our way down a long alleyway, we were ducked under the shutters into the exhibition. Massive paintings were scattered round the room and you couldn’t help but be impressed by the scale of it.
Okay, so we kind of cheated with this one. We were running late, and we’d all seen it beforehand, so we just snapped a picture outside on our way past. But I think it still counts. Arnolfini is one of Europe’s leading centres for contemporary arts and has several different rooms throughout the building. It was established in 1961 and moved to it’s current location in 1975. There have been loads of huge shows on there, and currently it’s showing John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea show. With two visually striking film pieces currently there, it is well worth a look – the show is moving, powerful and stunning.
**LUNCHTIME SPECIAL** Grounded Cafe
By this point, we were getting hungry. We stopped at the Grounded Cafe in Bedminster for some lunch where they were showing the work of Tanya Voronina. It wouldn’t be a proper Art Gallery Crawl if we weren’t having lunch somewhere they were exhibiting artwork.
The Grant Bradley Cafe
This was one of the more surprising galleries. We went into the Grant Bradley Gallery not expecting much, but were blown away by the exhibition that was on. There were a collection of dresses and wigs that were made out of materials that addressed situations from the artist’s life. This included dresses and wigs made out of sanitary pads. We were really surprised by how much we enjoyed this exhibition and it just goes to show what you can stumble accross.
Next up, we popped into the Upfest Gallery where we chatted to Steve who ran the shop and festival. Upfest is Europe’s largest street art festival, and attracts thousands of visitors every year. The Gallery is a permenant home for the work of artists who paint at the festival, and they regularly hold exhibitions on different themes. The walls were filled with work there, with plenty for everyone.
Spike Island is massive. Like, huge. We were allowed in to get yet another sneak peek of the new exhibition there that opens on the 16th April. Michael Beutler is transforming the space at spike with his huge site specific work. It was exciting to wander round as he was setting up, and to get a glimpse of the space at Spike Island during transition. For a massive ex-tea packing factory, it makes for a great art gallery.
Lime Tree Gallery
On the other side of the river (and after a few wrong turns) we arrived at Lime Tree Gallery. It shows the work of Scottish fine artists – usually who specialize in painting – and a few glass and jewelery pieces too. As well as their gallery in Bristol, they also have one in Suffolk and frequently attend art shows and fairs.
***DETOUR THROUGH BRANDON HILL***
A piece of advice – taking a detour through Brandon Hill to get to the RWA is not a good idea. That hill is big.
Our final stop for the day was the RWA – the Royal West of England Academy. By this point, we were two hours late and completely worn out. However we did find out that if you visit the gallery after 5pm, then you can pretty much have it to yourself. With high ceilings and a grand entrance, it’s a beautiful place for an art gallery.
I’d say that 17 galleries in one day is quite an achievement. However we had planned to see more – there are so many galleries in Bristol. So here’s our list of places that didn’t quite make the crawl, but deserve a mention…
Once we had finished, I returned home exhausted. It turns out cycling round all these places is exhausting. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend visiting them all in one day unless you’re a seasoned cyclist, we all agreed that it was a lot of fun and you get a HUGE feeling of accomplishment. You may not realise what all these galleries have to offer until you step inside, so it’s worth taking the time to check them out.
You can see all of our tweets from the day and see the action as it happened here
Or alternatively, you can check out this exhibit of illustrated women in history