Celebrating 30 years celebrating art

The John Russell Gallery has had a long honourable history championing the very best in contemporary art.

Andrew Clarke

The John Russell Gallery has had a long honourable history championing the very best in contemporary art. The reputation of the gallery has been forged by the uncompromising integrity of its owner and director Tony Coe, a former jazz musician, who this summer celebrates his 30th anniversary of being a respectable art dealer.

An Ipswich lad born and bred, Tony was a restless teenager who fled home at barely 18 years of age to travel, hang out and play his beloved jazz. His wanderings took him around the world but eventually the lure of Suffolk brought him home and his life-long love of art provided him with a more reliable income than gigging in European tavernas.

Tony has always wanted to strike a balance between bringing on fresh, new talent and celebrating the greats of contemporary East Anglian art. The local nature of the gallery is important to Tony. To him, he is an East Anglian gallery owner and he has a responsibility to draw attention to the quality, richness and bewildering diversity of contemporary art on East Anglia.

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Tony is clearly very proud of his achievement and also proud of the fact that he led the way to the waterfront when the gallery moved to Werry Lane from Tacket Street in 1994.

He said: “Landmark anniversaries should never be allowed to pass unnoticed and by rights ought to be celebrated! And so it is with not the slightest hint of modesty that we welcome you to join us in celebrating the gallery's 30th year with a visual feast of the cream of East Anglian art.

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“Those who have supported our exhibitions over the years will be fully aware of the gallery's raison d'�tre - that is to

promote solely the works of the region's best established and up and coming painters and sculptors. Save for a handful of artists

who have moved out of the area and a very few who have sadly passed away, the majority have survived the test of time, surely a

testament to the strength and quality of their work.”

To mark the gallery's anniversary Tony has curated a star-studded summer show bringing together some of the greatest names to have exhibited during the past 30 years.

Familiar names such as Anthony Atkinson, Charles Bartlett, Richard Bawden, John Brunsdon, Michael Carlo, Bernard and Chl�e Cheese, Michael Coulter, Ken Cuthbert, Graham and Julie Giles, Joan Hodes, Heather Hodgson, Barrie Houghton, Olwen

Jones, Jill Leman, Peter McCarthy, Liz Moon, Elizabeth Morris, Gil Mutch, Julie Noad, Dione Page, David Quantrill, Christopher

Ryland, Constance Stubbs, Glynn Thomas and Br�er Tidman will be showing alongside such relative newcomers as David Jones, Gill Levin, Naomi Munuo, Jan Pawlowicz and Mary Spicer.

There will also be contributions from the gallery's two principal sculptors - Lesley Carruthers and Patrick Elder.

Tony said: “I feel very proud, and indeed privileged to find myself in the tremendously satisfying position of celebrating the gallery's 30th Anniversary year. When the concept of opening a contemporary art gallery first came to me all those years ago, I was bombarded with comments such as “Art? In Ipswich? Whatever for?” and “Nobody's interested in art. You won't last five minutes!”

Fortunately, not being one to heed the advice of others, I decided instead to follow my gut instinct. Knowing that East Anglia was

home for some of the best artists in the country who were fully deserving of a high quality, dedicated gallery in which to show their

work, I set myself to the task.

“I can't say it has been an easy ride throughout, but with the help and encouragement of the gallery's extremely loyal artists,

together with the unfailing support of all of my customers, many of whom have become good friends, we've made it this far.

“This year is actually a double celebration for me as I approach a significant birthday, and whilst one never seems to retire from the

art world, the thought of a lighter workload now seems very appealing. It is with this in mind that I announce some changes

to the gallery's exhibiting programme.

“From now on, major exhibitions will be staged quarterly with the remaining time being set aside for an ongoing mixed exhibition of work by established gallery artists and up and coming talents. Thus, private views and mailing will also happen quarterly, but the

gallery will continue to open on a daily basis, all year round. Our framing, restoration and art consultancy services will remain


He added that in today's uncertain economic climate, it was extremely gratifying to know that there are still people around who are keen to seek out individuality and quality.

The John Russell Gallery 30th Birthday Exhibition runs until September 19 but is closed for a summer break from August 17-31.

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