Coldharbour London Gallery. An interview with Founder & Director, Lucy Baxter

South East London has been on the up and up over recent years. I myself used to live in Brixton in 2007, would love to suggest that it was because I can recognise a burgeoning area. But it wasn’t. I was dragged there kicking and screaming by my then boyfriend. Plus I bailed just as it went from nearly to really cool, so can take no trend credits for that one.

Down the road from Brixton Village Market with its restaurants and cafes (see here for Time Out London’s pick of those restaurants) is Coldharbour London, a contemporary gallery and studio space.

Off the beaten track this converted 1960’s factory is creating a super buzz amongst “those in the know ”, generating column inches in Vogue, The Times, Pop Magazine and Harpers and Queen to name a few. Their knack for breaking new talent has earnt them respect from entry level art collectors, as well as heavy weight collectors, including Mario Testino.  With respected figures in the art world starting to draw comparisons to Saatchi’s first Gallery. It’s all happening in Brixton!

Crowd at Illumination, Coldharbour's launch show

Coldharbour London’s Founder & Director, Lucy Baxter, has been kind enough to lend me some of her time answering my probing, hard-hitting, journalistic questions….. So Lucy… over to you.

Can you introduce yourself in 140 characters?
Hello! My name is Lucy Baxter, I am 29, live in London and founded Coldharbour London Gallery and Artist studio in Brixton back in 2010.

How did it all start?
Art has been a passion of mine for many years but it wasn’t until I discovered the building itself that I started to consider the possibility that I could build a business around my passion.

The gallery building is an old 1960’s printing factory that was begging to be filled with life. Nestled just off Coldharbour Lane within easy reach of some of the capital’s leading art schools with its low property prices with vast industrial spaces, this is prime artist territory. I felt the location offered a strong countercultural challenge to the established and gentrified East End scene.

Coldharbour London exhibition space

Who is the Coldharbour team?
After founding the space in 2010, I approached one of my dearest friends, the well-known and respected curator, Aretha Campbell to join as Creative Director. Bringing with her boundless enthusiasm and knowledge of the art world we launched our first group show, Illumination, in the summer of 2011. Plus, we are lucky enough to have all of our resident artists at Coldharbour Studios who help to contribute to the ethos and friendly atmosphere of the place also.

Aretha Campbell, Creative Director (left) and Lucy Baxter, Founder and Director (right)

What is Coldharbour London’s ethos as a creative space?
As a team we’re dedicated to exhibiting a fusion of talent whilst working in partnership with visionary individuals bringing the most cutting edge and exciting art projects to South East London. We believe that art unites communities, establishes a sense of purpose and set of ideals that help break down barriers, promoting fellowship and positive growth.

The gallery itself is a multifunctional space designed to host a wide medium of contemporary art. Supporting and exhibiting emerging artists in conjunction with already well established artists, I wanted to provide an environment that is not only a striking exhibition space but also encourages collaboration and creativity within the local community.

Christophe von Hohenberg's photo of Bianca Jagger. As part of the exhibition Andy Warhol,. The Day The Factory Died

What is the thing you love most about directing a gallery?
Without a doubt it’s the ever-changing and exploratory aspect. Contemporary art is an ever evolving creature, so you are constantly challenged and surprised by the creativity around you.

I have been very lucky that my wonderful dad has also been instrumental in advising me how to set up and run my own business, especially when it comes to managing and renting out the 40 resident artist studios. I’d have to say the thing I love the most about the experience is learning the ways of business from my dad. With his guidance and wisdom helping me along the way, I’ve felt like every day has been a school day since I first took the project on in 2010. From learning everything there is to know about the structure of reinforced concrete, to translating legally binding documents. Thanks Dad.

David Hockney cavafy etchings as part of Loves Presentation film screening

What is the thing you love least?
Our ‘state of the art’ alarm system that alerts us when spiders break in!

Where does the inspiration for the exhibitions come from?
Anywhere and everywhere! Anything from a book, a picture, an artist, a legend, history, crime, geography, fashion, war, peace, cutlery, travelling, a cup of tea, a bacon sandwich, a broken window, a journey, love, envy, boredom, lust and wonderlust. Our first ever show Illumination, was inspired by Light, and our following show was based on a book about The Geometry of Nature….so it can really be anything that gets you thinking.

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