It’s anniversary time on the Lisburn Road as two of Northern Ireland’s longest-running galleries, the Eakin and the Tom Caldwell, celebrate, respectively, twenty and forty years in the business.
The Caldwell Gallery first opened in a basement in Bradbury Place — very avant-garde for its day, all exposed pipes and black paint, a look apparently inspired by Colin Middleton when he said “paint the ceiling black and the walls white and I’ll have your first show”.
That was exactly what he did and one of the pictures from that show, Woman with Flowers, an oil on wood image, is in the 40th anniversary exhibition, which is open now.
Over the years, many artists have hung their work in the Caldwell — Dan O’Neill, Gerard Dillon and Markey Robinson — and the gallery has always stuck by its principle of not hanging anything the owners don’t personally like.
The gallery has brought to our notice artists like Raymond Piper, Basil Blackshaw, Tom Carr and more recently, Neil Shawcross, Colin Davidson and Carol Graham.
Chris Caldwell, who took over the running of the gallery on the death of his father, says he is “immensely proud of the way the business has developed”.
He feels they have always taken to heart a piece of advice given to Tom many years ago, when he asked his father what he thought was the most important thing in life. The answer he was given was: “integrity”.
This one quality has seen them grow to a point where they have buyers all over the world.
Bringing together a wonderful collection of works from over the last 40 years this exhibition marks a very important milestone.
Meanwhile, twenty years on the Lisburn Road is also a milestone for the Eakin Gallery. It opened its doors in December 1989 and has successfully showcased Irish art ever since. Here we find everyone from William Conor and Maurice Wilks to Gladys McCabe, Gerard Maguire and Paul Walls, with approaches which vary from the traditional to the contemporary and the abstract.
With two packed floors there should be something to suit almost any taste.