Amidst the retail bustle of Princess Street in Manchester, by the side of the Town Hall, the calming presence of an independent art gallery is welcome.
But Contemporary Six is a city centre gallery with a difference. There, not only is the work of the highest quality, boasting emerging as well as internationally acclaimed artists, but the in-depth knowledge offered by gallery founder Alex Reuben and his colleague Jordan Harrison-Twist is second to none.
Knowledge which is based on a passion for what they do – yes for a living, but there’s always a sense that the work on show is their reason for being in the open, airy space that could so easily have been another coffee shop.
As Alex says, “I couldn’t show anything that I wouldn’t want in my own home.”
Their backgrounds are in the arts, Alex having graduated in Fine Art from Leeds Met, before realising on graduation that he wasn’t “actually that good an artist.”
And Jordan a graduate of the Royal College of Art, but from a course that specialised in writing about art, not creating art. Between them a wealth of knowledge that means they are happy to chat about art and the art world in general, not just about the new collection on show at Contemporary Six.
On graduating Alex found work in Moss Bros selling suits, whilst researching how to run a commercial gallery for two or three years, before opening Contemporary Six in the Royal Exchange in Manchester. Contemporary Six, he says, simply because it was Unit 6 in the Royal Exchange.
Taking the plunge at the age of 24 was, he says, ‘daunting.’ But the Royal Exchange gallery became a fixture until, in 2016, he moved out into the big wide world of the city centre.
Since then the gallery has grown in reputation, featuring artists such as Liam Spencer – “That was my ambition when I started out, Liam was the peak and I desperately wanted to sell his work.” – through to two paintings in the new show which opened last week by Theodore Major, who shared exhibitions with his own contemporary Lowry. Beautiful, dark, intense Lancashire landscapes.
The new show is eclectic: Michael Ashcroft, Anne Aspinall, Chris Cyprus, Anthony Frost, Geoffrey Key and many others, plus sculptures and ceramics.
Alex is particularly excited about featuring works by Richard Cook because – typically – he was a fan of Cook’s work and persuaded him to exhibit. To quote Cook, “Paintings are dreams and reflections.” That too maybe sums up Alex’s attitude to the work in his gallery.
And if you’d love to own a beautiful original from a fine artist, but maybe find the cost daunting? Well Contemporary Six can help with that too, with the ‘Own Art’ scheme, where payments can be split over a ten-month period.
But for me, to be able to call in, chat about art and the art world – favourite works, favourite artists, favourite galleries – as well as view the highest quality work actually for sale there, is what makes Contemporary Six a unique city centre experience.
Contemporary Six, 37 Princess St, Manchester M2 4FN
0161 835 2666