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Artzu Gallery: Nick Betney Says Buy Art, It's Good For You

Jonathan Schofield chats about UK art shyness and how to create a successful gallery

Written by . Published on November 7th 2013.


Artzu Gallery: Nick Betney Says Buy Art, It's Good For You
 

To learn more about Artzu, visit the website

BRITISH shyness over art buying seems part of our character. An art buyer reveals their personality through the works they purchase. The embedded suburban nature of the UK runs screaming from this. For many people a 'feature wall' painted a bit more brightly than the other three magnolia sides of the room is as racy as it gets. We have self-expression via Changing Rooms.

You have to gently edge people out of their comfort zone. A good gallery will give a buyer or collector confidence to buy.

Yet why should it be like this? Why can't we all bag ourselves some original art? 

"I think one of the problems is expense. One of the myths about art buying is it costs an arm and a leg," says Nick Betney, the man behind smart Artzu Gallery in Spinningfields. "How many people do you know who've spent over £800 on a settee, £1,200 perhaps, maybe even three grand? I say keep the sofa for a bit longer and for the same price pick up two or three really beautiful artworks."

Betney is sitting on a settee as he talks. A settee surrounded by artworks. Artzu resembles an apartment in which you imagine Betney's buyers wander about with glasses of wine and something smooth trilling from the i-Station. 

Artzu

Artzu

"There's financial logic too," says Betney continuing with his theme of art buying. "If you buy well an artwork may carry intrinsic value, it won't end up in the tip like a settee. Of course the emotional pull of a piece of work is what usually entices people to buy, the desire to purchase something that talks to them and they want to keep."

I ask him to explain the name of his gallery - Artzu. 

"It's catchy, memorable, and makes for a good domain name."

Somehow I'm disappointed by this clever letter play.

"Not an acronym then?" I ask. 

"No," says Betney. "I want this business to carry on running so I needed to think through every element, even the name. It's been difficult for galleries especially away from the capitals. When I started fifteen years ago there were five or six private and commercial galleries in Manchester city centre, now there are two. There are the big studios of course, Rogue and Islington Mill, but they are very different from Artzu in what they are trying to acheive and in atitude."

Betney thinks for a minute before continuing.

"To survive you have to have good business plan and you have to look the part, a well-intentioned but dowdy artist space in a peripheral area isn't the best place for a commercial gallery. It won't show off the works in a way to attract regular buyers. Manchester should have private galleries to match similar sized European cities. It's about time we had the bar raised. I'm proud of Artzu and think we're up there with those."

Nick Betney

Nick Betney

Confident fella our Nick. Nothing wrong with that of course. And of course it isn't an overnight job to develop a reputation for a gallery.

To learn more about Artzu, visit the website

"Galleries develop at their own pace," says Betney. "You can't rush this. It's about the gallery buying the right works, being committeed to quality and growing its reputation and making sales - obviously. The more success as a gallery the more artists are drawn to you. 

"And you always have to be aware of your audience. We're in Manchester. We're not in Mayfair amidst a dense, incredibly affluent city centre population that's been established for years. So you have to gently edge people out of their comfort zone. A good gallery will give a buyer or collector confidence to buy. At the same time by being chosen to be represented means an artist gains credibility."

So where does Betney's audience come from.

"Across the North," he says. "We've even started pulling in collectors from London. Locally it's not just Cheshire either as people always assume, but right into Lancashire and across the North. That's the individual and private collectors, we also work with corporates a lot and not just in Manchester but abroad too. At the same time the consultancy and commissioning aspects of our business are very important. We've recently worked in Kazhkstan on a commision with one of our artists."

Betney became a gallery owner in Manchester following a Road to Damascus moment.

"I worked abroad for years. After a decade travelling, working my way from job to job, spending lots of time in Spain, Portugal, USA and SE Asia, I found myself in Phuket. I went into an art gallery and had an epiphany. Right then I decided this was the job for me, I gave up a decent lifestyle in Portugal and come back to the UK and started Artzu."

So in the current selection in Artzu what are some of his picks?

"For collectors looking to celebrate the reality of their own city, of Manchester, Tim Garner's work is really strong," says Betney. "I don't think there's anybody more honest, working with more integrity. He mines the backstreets for inspiration, picking up on buildings and scenes that others miss." 

Tim Garner

 

Tim Garner

"Another favourite is Anna Gillespie who has a growing reputation with her beautifully textured human figures -  one of Gillespie's pieces is shown in the main picture at the top of this page. Meanwhile I find Carl Melegari's haunting pictures particularly powerful. These darkly beguiling images of the human form are attracting a lot of attention." 

CarCarl Melegari

There is one final bee in Betney's bonnet. He wants to go public, take to the streets.

"My dream is to turn the city centre of Manchester into an urban sculpture park. Maybe start in Spinningfields for obvious reasons - private ownership, easier to do things and all that - and then spread artworks around the city. 

"Perhaps we could do this through cloud funding," says Betney. "An Anna Gillespie work, lifesize or taller, would work. We could ask the people of Manchester to fund it with some corporates involved. Say doing a major work costs £100k then we'll need maybe a thousand payments of £100. Get the first up with the support of the city, the media, the people. Then we're off and we can go for a second."

It's an ambitious idea, difficult to realise, but dream dreams and they might become reality.

What is certain about Nick Betney is that he's in this for the long term. Being a gallery owner and art consultant is in his heart, his passion. Unusually for such a person he's also got business nous. What Manchester city centre could really do with is five or six more of him, we are poorly served for private commercial art galleries. 

To learn more about Artzu, visit the website

Artzu is at Quay House, Spinningfields, City centre, M3 3JE. 0161 827 1717. Artzu is also available for hire as an event space.

This is the first in a series of occasional private art gallery profiles across the regions. If you have a favourite let me know at jonathans@theconfidentials.co.uk

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+

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