York: Remembrance Day Celebrated With Freedom To Enjoy Art And Cocktails. According To Mcgee And Vanity.

I spent the morning 11/11/11 wearing my poppy with pride. I have a very happy life: it has been pretty much made possible by the sacrifice of brave men and women overseas, some of whom have paid the ultimate price. So don’t go telling me that I’m an imperialist patriot, you leftie fruitcake (not you, dear reader. A friend of a friend who insists on not wearing a poppy due to achingly liberal reasons). I spent the daytime at work and my lunch hour visiting the memorial at the end of Tower Street, York. Apropos of which, I spent the evening of 11/11/11 at a Private View of what has become my favourite art gallery in the UK (and I know a good few dozen), ‘According to McGee’. It was a new show, ‘New Visuality’ and their blurb was characteristically, ah, shy and retiring:
‘According to McGee’s online gallery begins with ‘New Visuality’, our national exhibition showcasing the elite, the top 23 of the most collectable young artists of the year, all culled from UK art shows in
2011. The online gallery will evolve. We’re looking forward to showcasing painters and photographers and adding to our list of ceramicists and jewellers.
For now though, we’re delighted with the calibre. The UK art scene is in fine fettle. We work at the cultural coalfield so you don’t have to. Trust us. Either your collection starts here or it is augmented by new artists who create art that will continue to make your life more interesting than Art. According to McGee, Art is a force of nature, a life style, a gift.
We show it, celebrate it and – long after New Visuality finishes on 30th January 2012 – we sell it online, right here.
Collecting great Art has just got a whole lot easier.’

Modest the McGees are not. But what they muster up with evangelical zeal they match up with the building blocks of exemplary exhibitions, by any standard. Every wall, every plinth, every glass cabinet was bejewelled with the highest quality examples of UK contemporary art. It is a well designed, beautifully balanced show. Roisin Connolly’s jewellery is poetically beautiful; Daniela Cardilo’s necklaces made up of electroformed rodent skulls are as compulsively desirable as any work I’ve ever seen; Eleanor Osborne’s ceramic dancing bears are simultaneously light hearted and disconcerting – they are so, so much like beautiful ornaments, but the ring and chain through their noses suggest a darker intent; Olivia Streatfield-James’ depictions of Scottish wildlife are the most precisely delineated black marks I’ve witnessed.

It really was a great night, endowed all the more elegantly by two sweet bar tenders pouring wine until the bar was dry. What is especially interesting is that the McGee gallery is dovetailing the launch of the show with the launch of their online gallery, powered by York based ecommerce agency The Distance. Now, a few of us have known of Distance’s helmsman Ryan Atkins for some time. Somewhat young to be in such a prominent position amongst Yorkshire’s business players (he is a cherubic 20), his instinct for selling work online is apparently second to none. He was put forward for two business awards at the age of 17. Whether he can connect with McGee’s at times defiantly provocative choice of edgy art remains to be seen: the days when bold art collectors bought unique works of art as often as they booked a weekend away may have gone, but if anyone is to remind art lovers that investing in beautiful and progressive works is as sexy a habit as any, then your man Ryan Atkins is the man for the job, so he is.

Before we left to continue the tradition of hitting York’s most stylish cocktail bars, I complimented Ails McGee on the packaging of their brand. According to McGee has it just right: the double block motif, the reliance on wordsmithery, the luxurious vibe that arises from the design. York’s creative agency and increasingly internationally important The Beautiful Meme were behind the gallery’s 2010 relaunch, but it turns out that the baton has been passed to Choir of Vision’s Jack Casling, who is continuing to keep the quality as high as set by T.B.Meme. I looked for Jack to congratulate him – all graphic designers need a bit of feedback from time to time, theirs is such a lonely job – but by then we were in York hotspot Vanity, and the cocktails were flowing, and the whole night had taken on a pleasingly bacchanal bombast. Beautiful.

So there you have it. Always a magical night in York when you segue the pleasures of edgy art at According to McGee with a few New York styled hotspots in the city afterwards. By the time I got home, the poppy on my jacket was still there, still crisp and red, and still a poignant reminder. I’d had a great time, I’d partied as hard as I’d had for ages – and before I hit the crib and nodded off, I silently sent thanks to those brave people who make our wonderful and free lives possible.


By Viv on November 28, 2011

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3 Comments » RSS Comment Feed

  1. Thanks for such a nice write up.

    Any chance of linking ‘The Distance’ through to http://thedistance.co.uk?

    Comment by Ryan Atkins — November 30, 2011 @ 10:29 am

  2. Great review… hats off to you!

    Comment by Tom — December 10, 2011 @ 12:28 am

  3. No problem Ryan.

    Comment by Dave — December 28, 2011 @ 3:13 pm

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