For The Love Of Art…. Up Close & Personal With Donna Marie Cross, Owner of Oberon Gallery.
The Arts and Culture scene in Leicester is thriving and nowhere more-so than on Loseby Lane in Leicester’s The Lanes, which recently welcomed a new addition in the form of Oberon Gallery, a beautiful, two-story gallery with a difference…
dluxe LEICESTERSHIRE & RUTLAND caught up with Gallery Manager, Donna Marie Cross to find out what it’s like to launch a new business and how she became involved with TV’s Timmy Mallett!
Donna, congratulations. You must be thrilled? Has it always been a dream to open your own Gallery?
To be honest, not always… for man years I was a Regional Account Manager for Sage Business Software but like many working mothers, I was struggling with so many overnight hotel stays; seeing my children was becoming a challenge and so I looked for something closer to home. It just so happened that there was a position available within a newly opening
gallery in Leicester for the biggest chain of art galleries in the UK. I applied, got it and this is where my love of art began. I was taught everything I know by the biggest art publishers in the UK, which I’m incredibly grateful for, but, like so many creative people, I wanted do things my way – and this is when Oberon was created.
Where do you think your love of art has come from?
My passion for art developed from the moment I entered the industry. It was an immediate love affair. Until then, I didn’t realise how important it is to have artwork in your life. People have very different and personal experiences with art: I, myself, am a rather emotional person, I can connect with a piece of art and depending on the piece it can really cause a number of various reactions. One particular piece of art that I own has reduced me to tears, but in a beautiful way. This piece has real meaning to me. I look at if often and feel a strong emotional pull every time. Other pieces fill me with excitement; they may be visually entertaining in many ways or I may often just be stunned by the pure beauty and technique in front of me. I saw a quote recently that stated “art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known” I agree strongly with this quote. It’s what, I hope, sets Oberon aside from other
galleries: the love and genuine passion. I want you to fall in love with art as much as I have.
Do you have a particular passion for an artist, era or style?
I hold great passion for Andrei Protsouk’s work. Andrei was born in the Ukraine in 1961, moved to the U.S. as a child and still resides over there. His artwork shows a technique of “Fine Lines”, straight, constructive use of lines to create shapes that captivate the eye. Every time you study a piece of Protsouk’s work you never see the painting the same way twice. His work represents, love, flirtation, relationships, eroticism, beauty, colour and much more. I am also head over heels for Lhouette’s post urban glamour/street pop art – a complete opposite to Protsouk – his employs stencilling techniques, high impact symbols, images and patterns. Using mixed media his work builds up from acrylic, aerosol, on rough ply canvas or pallets often finishing with a clear lacquer resin.
We understand that you’re also presenting a certain 80’s TV star’s paintings?
Yes, I’m also in love with Timmy Mallett’s poppies, the thick textures of oil on canvas, have me feeling as though I’m almost walking through his poppy fields without a care in the world. They’re simply stunning. It’s interesting; Timmy Mallett has gone from 80s TV icon to one of the art-scene’s most accomplished and bankable artists. I can’t wait to show his collection, which we officially launch at the end of March. I’m sure it’ll be a memorable event, as Timmy will be present, too.
What was the thinking behind Oberon?
I was initially looking to self-fund a small art gallery and dreamt of a City Centre location, but like so many start-ups, finances proved to be difficult. Whereas I didn’t have deep pockets, my connections were impeccable, so I took the advice of one of my artist friends and approached a trio of directors that have been in the business for over 30 years. As luck would have it, they were looking to invest and invested in me due to my reputation in the art sector. I’m fortunate, as they are happy to be my silent partners and let me run the business as I see fit. Without their belief in me, I would be sat in a poor out-of-town location with less than half of the artists that I have on board already and probably not doing
anywhere near as well as Oberon is doing now. I called it Oberon because to me it was my midsummer night’s dream come true…. Ahhhhhhhh!!!!
Was locating the gallery in Leicester’s The Lanes always the plan?
Securing the investors was an instant game-changer: The Lanes was the ONLY place I wanted to be. It’s one of Leicester city’s quirkiest districts and full of other creative independents. The plans for the area are so exciting too – it’s going to be Leicester’s very own Soho – so it’s definitely the place to be. By chance, I stumbled across the perfect unit on Loseby Lane – it reflects the individual style and image I wanted for Oberon Gallery and gives us room to grow and develop. Because it’s on a main shopping street, I felt it important that we create a gallery space that felt welcoming, unpretentious and that customers would enjoy browsing in.
How do you decide on what artists to exhibit?
You hook into various art publishers who act as agents for numerous artists; my preferred publisher is Buckingham Fine Arts, as they have such a fantastic, eclectic mix of leading artists on their books and they always have something new, fresh and exciting to tempt me with, so it makes life a little easier. Also, they do not supply to any other art gallery in Leicester City – I think exclusivity is important. I have also taken on individual, local artists such as ‘Master Photographer of the Year’, Stuart Williamson. His fine art photography blows me away.
Is there a strong local artist scene in Leicestershire? How important issupporting lcal artists?
I’m approached at least once a day by artists who want to display their work in the gallery. It’s very difficult though because I appreciate all works of art, but I also know that I have to sell it and sometimes, sadly, it’s just not quite right for the gallery. That said, I already support four Leicester-based artists including Stuart Williamson – and feel proud to do so. I am also showcasing A–Level students’ works from Loughborough Grammar School; this is part of their coursework and I feel that it really inspires the students to know that their work is shown in a professional gallery. Working for a large chain previously this was something that I was unable to do, so it’s fantastic to be in a position to support a number of students locally and encourage tomorrow’s great artists.
Art is so subjective – do you like everything you exhibit?
I have to be honest, no I do not, but that does not mean to say that I do not appreciate the work of the artist and their techniques. Every piece of art does have something special to offer but not every piece of art connects personally with my heart. Buying art can be intimidating, what are your top tips for first time art investors? It’s okay not to like something as much as it is fantastic when you love it. Individual opinions are great and encouraged at Oberon.
My only tip is, WALK THROUGH THAT DOOR. You will NEVER walk into Oberon Gallery and feel intimidated. NEVER. We are not a pretentious team that will make you feel uncomfortable. Every potential client that walks through our door is made to feel completely at ease and free to potter around our gallery at their leisure. So many people feel uneasy walking into an art gallery: they may feel the consultant’s eyes are on them watching their every move. Rest assured, we allow you your personal space to come and view our beautiful showcase of works and once you meet us you will quickly realise what a down to earth team we really are.
Of course, we’re always on hand to help and advise and yes, of course, we do love to engage but never at a level that you would feel uncomfortable. The only other thing that I really have to say is that it could take you just the once to walk into the gallery and connect with a piece or it could take 50 visits until you see the one for you. Never give up on looking, as one day you will find the perfect piece for you. Falling in love is like that, isn’t’ it!
Oberon Gallery is at Loseby Lane, The Lanes, Leicester, LE1 5DR. Tel 0116 253 8484.