The Fosse Gallery at Stow

Art Galleries. The presentation of art to the public, either for display or commercial enterprise, or both, is a fundamental aspect of the World of Art and its history. During my recent study at Oxford I wrote no less than three essays around the subject. While this makes me no expert it does mean that I cannot visit a gallery without considering the museology and the academic viewpoint.

Stow on the Wold is one of those rural settings which is blessed with a number of galleries. Some have been here for many years while others come and go with the wind (which as you know blows cold as in the old nursery rhyme).

The Fosse Gallery in the Market place has a longevity which is ample reward for the quality of its art and presentation. Founded in 1980 by established art dealers Gerard O’Farrell and Brian Sinfield its early reputation was based on Victorian work and water-colours. Don Steyn introduced a modern theme and the Gallery can now be considered among the finest outlets for modern contemporary art and the work of Royal Academicians outside the capital. The current owner, Sharon Wheaton, acquired The Fosse in 2006 and has continued and developed Steyn’s lead adding her own personal expertise to the enterprise.

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I spoke to Sharon recently to get an insight into running a gallery of this quality in such a competitive market. “There are no set rules for gallery management,” she said; “you have to see a lot of art and trust your eye.” She does appreciate the contributions of her mother, who introduced her to art as a young teen, emphasising the skill of looking, and her early mentor, Don Steyn; “I was lucky to have a great teacher in Don”.

I asked her how The Fosse Gallery can retain such a portfolio of quality artists including so many Royal Academicians. She explained that the rôle of the gallery has changed over the last thirty years from a buying and selling business to becoming an important outlet for artists. Steyn had established the trust of the Royal Academy and their artists, and they were delighted with the Cotswold promotion for their work. Sharon believes that the gallery’s continued loyalty to good artists “is fundamental to our success”

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Mick Rooney (RA), Open Air Aviary (detail), 2012, Private Collection.

The emphasis of the Fosse Gallery is on solo shows, although she does run two seasonal shows at Christmas and the Summer. With a quality portfolio of artists, recent exhibitions have featured the likes of Mick Rooney, George Underwood, the fabulous Charlie Calder-Potts and Lydia Corbett (see Côte d’Azur 4). The current show, which opens on Sunday stages Jane Ford with her passion for British wildlife, unusual settings, northern sense of humour, all delivered with a gothic twist and powerful tone.

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Jane Ford, Mr Blue Sky, 2018, Fosse Art Gallery, Stow on the Wold.

What makes a good purchase I enquired,  to which Sharon thought for a while before answering; “the buyer must like the artist and not just see an investment, they should have an idea where it will hang, but once having decided, go forward and buy the very best. I was encouraged when I browsed her website to notice not only one of our acquisitions, a William Gear (from his centenary show), which you know we like, but of yours truly weighing up whether it would work in our Dining Room Gallery!

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What I especially enjoy about seeing art presented at The Fosse is its simplicity. In so many galleries in the Cotswolds you are invited down tunnels and up stairs to view room after room of paintings to a point beyond saturation. At The Fosse Gallery the ‘Double Cube’ presentation gives a simplistic approach and allows each piece the opportunity to contribute to the whole. Galleries will come and go in Stow but I do hope the The Fosse thrives and Sharon Wheaton’s programme of excellent ‘solo’ and seasonal eclectic exhibitions continue to bring quality art to this rural outpost

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Lydia Corbett (Sylvette David), Sylvette’s Memories, 2002, Private Collection.

And for those who only know two lines!

At Brill on the hill,

The wind blows shrill,

The cook no meat can dress.

At Stow on the Wold,

The wind blows cold,

I know no more than this

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