Fancy taking in the fluid beauty of a Matisse? Tempted by the glorious technicolour of a Hockney? Intrigued to spend some time with a Dali? It may surprise you to know that you won’t have to travel to a major, central gallery and brave the crowds in order to enjoy these pieces. Sylvester Fine Art Gallery, in the heart of Belsize Park village, is a treasure trove on your doorstep.
Owner and art aficionado Andrea Sylvester is breath of fresh air in the gallery world. “I’ve always believed art should be accessible and that purveyors of art should be approachable,” she says. “I feel sad when customers say: ‘I always walk past but haven’t had the courage to come in until now’, or, ‘This is a silly question but could you tell me about this piece?’ There’s no such thing as a silly question with art and you should never be afraid to come in and enjoy it.”
Her enthusiasm is infectious. Within the space of a few moments, visitors are plunged into a sordid world of post-war racketeering with German artist Gorge Grosz and elevated to the ethereal joy of form and colour with Spanish artist Joan Miró. Her access to pieces is astonishing and her anecdotes about each are spell-binding.
Since opening three years ago she notes that no day brings the same and she never knows who will grace her gallery, from local children keen to sell their own pictures to international celebrities. “Some people come just to look and feel inspired; some come to talk about the pieces or the artist on display and share their excitement; some come to invest in a series of pieces; and some people come back again and again because they have fallen in love with something and are making a considered purchase. What ever their reasons, I’m happy to answer their questions, share their pleasure or respect their privacy,” she says.
Ahead of her second major Marc Chagall exhibition, she explains that hanging the gallery is a mixed process tempered by what pieces are available and, of these, what is collectively strong enough to exhibit. “I do six dedicated shows a year but you’ll often find customers asking after a piece that was hanging in the space previously. It leads to frantic sourcing of that work if it has moved on to another gallery.” Perhaps because it is a local gallery, people lose all sense of time. “If they are used to seeing something every day that they have fallen in love with, it can be a huge shock when it isn’t there the next time they come in. That’s often when people decide that they have to have it.”
Andrea acknowledges that art is a luxury and so a considered purchase, but has also taken care to present a range of prices. If an eight-foot £20,000 Eduardo Paolozzi isn’t in your budget then perhaps a £200 original woodprint from Alice in Wonderland artist John Tenniel is? Andrea’s beautiful, earthy pottery collections are a great example of affordable art too, if a distinctive, crackle-glazed, £150 sake set isn’t what you were after then perhaps a great, tactile tankard mug for £20 could be the piece you take home.
As William Morris once said: “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Andrea’s gallery makes this possible. Sylvester Fine Art Gallery is the perfect place to while away a blissful hour surrounded by exquisite and challenging pieces and very good company.
Marc Chagall exhibition runs from 7th November 2015. For more information and how to find the gallery visit http://www.sylvesterfineart.co.uk