An exhibition of 1970s drawings by William Johnstone is complemented by a selection of early oak furniture contributed by Peter Bunting. This set of three painted arms boxes, c.1500, from a German monastery on a later stand is offered for £8000. Drawings range from £650-2200 and contemporary ceramics by Ruth Elizabeth Jones are priced at £70-960.

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While it’s back to the (new) normal as doors reopen, shifting schedules brought about by lockdown mean that this month is set to be busier than it has ever been.

While the internet remains the top destination for most buyers and businesses, dealers are also looking for new ways to trade, from appealing to ‘staycation’ shoppers to collaborating on exhibitions.

Non-fringe benefits

Among those facing an altered schedule this August is The Fine Art Society (FAS) in Edinburgh, which typically stages two exhibitions to coincide with its home city’s international attraction, the Fringe Festival. With the event’s cancellation, FAS has rearranged its calendar of shows – but that could be good for business.

“It’s always been the busiest month for us with high footfall but fewer sales,” FAS group managing director Emily Walsh tells ATG. “It will be interesting with all of Edinburgh staying home. It could be better than usual.”


The Fine Art Society Edinburgh offers Unloading the Wreck by Sam Bough (1822-78) for £4750 as part of its exhibition A History in Small Pictures. The watercolour measures 10½ x 14½in (27 x 37cm).

To accommodate the change, the gallery postponed the major exhibition it had planned and instead revamped and enlarged the secondary show, A History in Small Pictures, which runs until August 29. Covering three centuries of Scottish art, it highlights different types of small works that artists produce, from quick outdoor studies to cabinet paintings.

Putting this show in the spotlight has an added advantage for the gallery since smaller, more affordable works are generally the ones that online buyers will go for sight-unseen. That crowd is currently crucial for the gallery.

“We’re open for drop-ins as well as by appointment, but these are people mostly looking. By and large our sales are coming from people engaging online,” Walsh says. Thanks to online sales, the recent June numbers were as healthy as in any other year, and she remains optimistic.

“A change of pace can throw up new possibilities,” she adds.

Positive early signs

Since restrictions on shops lifted, most galleries and dealers can now be visited by appointment and some positive early signs have emerged.

“I wasn’t certain how the market would respond in these uncertain times. However, there seems to be a real appetite to spend on art and home furnishings post lockdown,” says Simon Shore of 1793 Gallery in Stow-on-the-Wold, the Cotswolds. Like many dealerships, it reopened as regulations for England were relaxed in early July.


Simon Shore’s 1793 Gallery in Stow on the Wold, including an Orkney chair sold recently for £1200.

Among the early sales were a drawing by British painter John Napper (1916-2001), as well as a picture of Leicester Square which went to a new client visiting from London.

Shore adds: “I suspect having spent so much time in their homes the buying public have decided to feather the nest. Moreover, with interest rates flatlining at the bank with limited returns on deposited money and having spent very little over the last three months generally, people have thrown caution to the wind and taken a ‘why the hell not’ approach to purchasing fine art.”

His doors might be open, but, like FAS, he has found his online presence an asset. Another sale made shortly after opening was a Liberty & Co Orkney chair, which went to a Norfolk buyer who purchase it off Instagram for £1200 the day after it was posted.

Though doors are mostly open now, many are also offering online-only events.

Among them is The Maas Gallery in Mayfair, London, which holds Summer in Britain on its site. London and Petworth’s Timothy Langston Fine Art & Antiques also holds its show Cast Light – a selection of recent egg tempera works by Rupert Muldoon – virtually.

At the same time, with regulations restricting international holidays, dealers are also preparing to welcome both local visitors and those hopping over county boundaries for ‘staycation’ holidays this month. The volume of shows out there, whether scheduled before or because of lockdown schedule changes, means that buyers across the UK have plenty to choose from.

Rountree Tryon of Petworth and London, for example, has shifted its calendar back. Its dual summer exhibitions Equine and Birds of the World now run until August 29.

Over in Cornwall, Belgrave St Ives has taken some of the works it would have hung in its annual St Ives Exhibition in April and is showing them instead in its Summer Exhibition running until August 21.

Elsewhere, some dealers have teamed up to create joint shows. Partnerships such as these can widen a dealer’s audience, give a better idea of how works will function in home interiors and offer traders the morale boost that comes from mutual support.

Modern and Contemporary gallery The Art Stable in Dorset is among those collaborating. Its show Contemplation, running until August 29, features an assortment of contemporary ceramics and Modern British prints as well as contemporary furniture offered by Matthew Burt Studio.


Jason Wason’s Red and Gold Vessel is offered for £475 at The Art Stable.

Fashion illustration and design gallery Gray MCA of Bath is also engaged in several joint efforts. These include the exhibition Common Thread, running until the end of August, which takes place at New Art Centre in Salisbury and showcases Modern and Contemporary textile design.


Gray MCA offers Vertical, a Jacquard woven rayon, cotton and cotton grimp textile designed by Ben Nicholson (1894-1992) for £10,000, in Common Thread.

Meanwhile its show with Messums, Material: Textile Modern British Female Textile Designers, opened at Messums Wiltshire and has now been transferred to the new Messums Contemporary gallery in Harrogate. It runs until August 22.

Finally, Derbyshire dealer Peter Bunting contributed some of his early oak furniture to Henry Saywell Fine Art’s exhibition of William Johnstone drawings. Taking place in west London’s Lillie Road, the show was recently extended until the end of August.

Tough in Wales

Though many are happy to take a chance on August, some businesses anticipate a challenging month ahead. Cardiff’s Martin Tinney Gallery runs its Summer Show of Contemporary works until August 27. Though it is now open by appointment, owner Martin Tinney is expecting that crowds will throng elsewhere in the country.


Flowers and Pears (2020), a collage by Rosemary Burton, is offered by Martin Tinney Gallery for £795.

“Business has been extremely tough. The more considered approach by the Welsh government meant that the gallery had to remain closed until very recently, although there has been some online activity throughout,” Tinney says.

“The city centre is extremely quiet with everyone disappearing to their coastal and country cottages as soon as the five-mile rule was lifted in mid- July,” he adds.

“I don’t foresee much footfall in August as staycations will, I suspect, benefit coastal and rural areas even more.”