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Interview with Ian Hay, Director of Saul Hay Gallery from Manchester

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Saul Hay Gallery

Saul Hay Gallery


by Melisa Kaya

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Do not think of Manchester as only an industrial city, Manchester is a city where art takes place in its heart. And if you think that an art gallery can only be opened and operated by art educated people, you might be mistaken.

Catherine and Ian Hay pursued their passion for art despite having very different professions from art. And in 2016, they realized their dream on a Victorian building in Manchester city center and opened the Saul Hay Art Gallery.

I talked with Ian, Director of Saul Hay Gallery, about their art gallery and Manchester. You can find Q&A full session here.

Saul Hay Gallery

Ian Hay

Could you tell us about your art gallery and your art background?

Saul Hay Gallery was born out of the passion of its art collector founders, Catherine and Ian Hay. Having both had long careers in the commercial and public sectors, Catherine as a nurse and Ian as a systems analyst, and although neither of us has any formal art training nor a professional arts background our longstanding commitment to the arts scene in Manchester and a desire to offer the very best contemporary art to Manchester art buyers drove us to open the gallery.

Saul Hay Gallery opened in October 2016 in a beautiful Victorian building in the historic Castlefield area of city centre Manchester. We put on regular curated shows of contemporary fine art with a particular emphasis on painting and sculpture by artists from the north west of England.

Saul Hay Gallery

Catherine Hay

How did you first become interested in art? Who inspired you?

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by the visual arts and the lives of artists. Record sleeves were an early interest in this field and as music became an increasing obsession then so did the artwork of labels such as Factory and 4AD. The lives of the truly great artists from Caravaggio and Michelangelo, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso and Matisse, Pollock and Bacon and many others have been a huge inspiration. More directly my fellow gallerists in Manchester; David Powell of Phillips Gallery, Alex Reuben of Contemporary 6 and Colin Jellicoe have been inspirational and particularly in the case of Alex really supportive.

What is the overall concept of your art gallery?

Working with emerging and established artists we present a diverse programme of contemporary painting, drawing, sculpture, and photography.

Our aim is always to celebrate the very best of contemporary art from Manchester and beyond.

Where is the best public place for understanding Manchester art and culture? Why?

In the world's first industrial city a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry and the People's History Museum are a must. The Whitworth, Manchester Art Gallery and the Central Library shouldn't be missed either.

How do you find the artists you represent?

From our years of visiting other galleries, artists studios and degree shows and buying art we have accumulated a great deal of knowledge of artists working in Manchester and beyond and of course since opening the gallery we have had very many artists approach us. Our philosophy is and always will be to show artists and work that we love ourselves and would put in our own home.

Saul Hay Gallery

Saul Hay Gallery

Who are the most famous artists from Manchester? Do you regularly host exhibitions of these artists?

I have to mention LS Lowry of course and then there is Adolph Vallete. More recently Peter Saville the Factory records designer or the great Chris Offili spring to mind. Although we don't exhibit the work of these legends, I'd like to think that Saul Hay Gallery is exhibiting some of the very best artists currently working in the city.

What are some of the most memorable artists or events you have hosted at your gallery?

We have loved putting on every single exhibition. Our very first exhibition, ONE, stands out because it was the first. Since then there have been many highlights including our participation in the Manifest Arts Festival 2017, The Manchester Contemporary at the Buy Art Fair 2017 and showing the experimental film selection at the last two Manchester International Film Festivals.

Saul Hay Gallery

Saul Hay Gallery

How is the art market in Manchester?

I believe there is still a massive untapped appetite for art in Manchester. For so long the UK art market and many more aspects of life have been dominated by London but that seems to be shifting now and Manchester, firmly established as the second city, is poised to further increase its reputation as an international cultural centre.

Do you offer international delivery for foreign buyers?

We would be delighted to arrange shipping of artwork to anywhere in the world.

What is next for the art lovers? Any new exhibits, shows or events coming up soon?

We have a really exciting programme of exhibitions lined up for the remainder of 2018. Our current group show 'Manipulate' runs until 3rd June. On Friday 8th June we launch our next exhibition, Shortlist, which will feature the work of 16 artists all of whom were shortlisted for the New Light Art Prize. The show will include the 2017 Valeria Sykes Prize Winner Christopher Cook, Emerging Artist Prize Winner Deborah Grice, Bowes Museum Visitors Choice Winner Justin Coburn, New Light CEO Emerson Mayes, Royal Academy member Anne Desmet and Saul Hay Gallery favourites Steven Heaton, Mandy Payne and Glenn Ibbitson.

On 21st June the gallery will host a book launch and live music performance.

Watch this space!

If you have only one weekend in Manchester as a first time visitor, in this limited time, what are the best things to do?

Manchester is such a dynamic and exciting city that one weekend would never be enough but to soak up the atmosphere of the city I'd recommend visiting at least some of the museums and galleries mentioned earlier as well as the Castlefield Gallery and the wonderful arts centre HOME. In between gallery visits an just take your time to wander the streets and try out some of the amazing pubs and bars (personal favourites include The Knott, our gallery's local, The Refuge, The City Arms, The Kings Arms (strictly speaking in Salford), Sandbar and the Port St Beerhouse), restaurants (from fine dining at places such as The French or Manchester House to the more homely Hunters BBQ or This & That in the Northern Quarter).

The Northern Quarter and Ancoats reflect the current dynamism and some of the independent entrepreneurial spirit of modern Manchester. The leafy suburbs of Didsbury and Chorlton offer a very trendy if more genteel atmosphere. Media City at Salford Quays is the ultra modern shiny showcase of Manchester's emergence as a major television and film centre and, of course, Castlefield, an oasis of tranquility right in the heart of the city and home to our gallery.

Could you describe the importance of football for Manchester?

Football is huge in Manchester, perhaps now more than ever with the two clubs finishing first and second in the league, and is a lot of overseas visitors main link to the city. I don't support either being a fan of a non-league club from just outside of Manchester - Chorley FC so can remain largely neutral.

How do you describe Manchester in one sentence?

That's difficult so I will cheat and steal the late, great Tony Wilson's words: "This is Manchester, we do things differently here".

Anything you would like to add that I havenít asked?

Just to say that Manchester is an incredibly friendly and collaborative city and you are sure to find a warm welcome. Don't be afraid to start up a conversation with a Mancunian. Finally, thank you for letting me talk about my home city and I hope your readers visit us soon.

Thank you Ian.

For more information, please visit website of Saul Hay Gallery