But What if We Tried – Art Appreciation Group

But what if we tried.
That is the title of the current exhibition at the Touchstones Gallery in Rochdale and is the gallery’s response to the challenge posed by artist Harry Meadley as to why so much of publicly owned art is stuffed away in stacks out of sight.
The U3A Art Appreciation group normally meets monthly at the Fielden Centre but every three months we venture afield to a gallery or an artist’s studio and in May we luckily decided to visit this exhibition. We were fortunate enough to have an introductory talk by a member of the curatorial team at Touchstones who explained how the collection came about and how it developed over 150 years. All local authorities are under financial pressure and some have controversially sold off publicly owned works of art to raise funds.

Rochdale however has not only held onto their collection but with the assistance of bodies such as the Art Fund has continued to make acquisitions, including of contemporary Northern art.
Rochdale now has a very substantial collection and has displayed in the largest gallery many wonderful examples from an early self-portrait by Tim Bobbin to recently created paintings and prints selected and hung in order of acquisition. It leads to a display full of surprises and delights. In one of the smaller galleries is a display recreating the stacks showing how work is stored, conserved and restored and how vitals funds are raised by loaning out work to other galleries and museums.
Fascinating to think that all of this wonderful art displayed still only represents 13% of the art owned by the people of Rochdale.

The exhibition continues to the 1st June and is strongly recommended.

Text: Campbell Malone Pictures: Ann Foster, Campbell Malone and Doug Simpson