Artists' anger at gallery ban

ARTISTS have reacted with “shock and dismay” after they were told some of their work is to be barred from a local gallery after 60 years of exhibiting.

ARTISTS have reacted with “shock and dismay” after they were told some of their work is to be barred from a local gallery after 60 years of exhibiting.

The Bury St Edmunds Art Society annual show - marking its historic 60th anniversary - was planned for town's art gallery as usual but bosses have now told them the exhibition is not welcome.

Bury Art Society chairman Martin O'Shea said the membership of the society were sad the gallery had decided to axe the annual exhibition of local artists' works.

And he called on gallery director Alison Plumridge to adopt a more “democratic” approach to art and show fewer “remote” modern exhibitions.

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Mr O'Shea said: “Last year they considerably reduced the number of paintings in the annual exhibition which caused quite a bit of upset.

“This year they changed their policy and we are out of the picture. I've had a number of discussions with the art gallery but they have said they are adamant.

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“We were shocked - last year they refused well over half of the submitted works, and that was quite a shock so when they said they didn't want us it didn't come completely out of the blue.

“I think in art there is a bit of pretentiousness. The gallery's exhibitions are a bit remote from the public - they are not everybody's cup of tea. They are specifically related to a small group of art enthusiasts. “Our society is open to everybody - you don't have to be Reubens or Picasso to join. I like paintings and sculptures - I am quite traditional - and the art gallery is more conceptual.”

Bury Art Society secretary Dr Michael Creese said: “The membership is very disappointed. To a certain extent it is a matter of funding from the Arts Council, which is looking for cutting edge art. It is a regrettable situation.”

Gallery director Alison Plumridge said the gallery was continuing to work with the society on an open exhibition of Suffolk artists' work. She stressed: “It is part of our remit to show modern art. We are an educational charity which promotes contemporary art and that has been decided by the management council.

“There are other places for showing more traditional work in the town and it seems silly for us to replicate that.”

Mrs Plumridge explained the Arts Council, which gave £145,000 to the gallery last year, would not fund traditional art projects.

She also said the annual art society exhibition had been experiencing declining visitor numbers compared to other contemporary exhibitions and a decision had been made to hold an open exhibition to broaden its appeal.

The open exhibition at the Bury Art Gallery runs from July 8 to August 5 and the 60th Annual Bury Society Exhibition will be at St Edmundsbury Cathedral cloisters, running from April 7 to April 19.

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