The capital’s newest gallery space, DOGGERFISHER, combines artistic chutzpah with commercial nous. And it’s run by The List’s ex-art editor. Words: Helen Monaghan. Prtrrrest Jonathan Littlejohn.
t seems only yesterday that Susanna Beaumont was
telling me about her ‘dream and scheme’ to open a
gallery. And just ten months on. we’re sitting in it. Little
remains of its previous incamation as a tyre garage as
the aroma of freshly—painted white walls replaces the
smell of rubber. But for The List’s former art editor. it wasn’t a case of realising a lifelong ambition. She saw a cavemous gap in the market and decided to fill it.
Born in Hereford. Beaumont studied art history at Manchester University before spending five years in London doing public relations for Sadler’s Wells. Moving to Cairo in I991. she covered the rats for English language newspaper Al Ahram. She then joined The List in I995 as visual arts editor which led to freelance work for Scottish newspapers and later a part-time role at PACE (Public Art Commissions and Exhibitions) which involved commissioning artists for the BT Building in Edinburgh Park and the Hillend Lottery application. Juggling these many jobs. she still found time to fit in a three- month solo trek around Pakistan and India. And in July 2000. Beaumont left The List to embark on what was to become an all-consuming passion.
‘Joumalism and working at The List was vital spectator time for me.’ says Beaumont. ‘I was meeting lots of people and galleries, and I made so many contacts. It was only really last summer when I suddenly thought 1 could plough all my knowledge into the idea of setting up a gallery.’
And that’s exactly what she did. After months of scouring the city for a suitable venue. the 36-year-old came across an empty tyre garage oi‘l~ Edinburgh’s Gayfreld Square. She found a backer who bought the building. invested much of her inheritance from her late father. and brought on architect Oliver Chapman to oversee the conversion. The result is a clean, white. minimal space which retains its industrial feel. housing a main exhibition space along with a smaller project room. The gallery takes its name from the shipping forecast terms ‘dogger’ and
28 THE LIST 10-24 May 2001
‘frsher’ — stretches of water between Edinburgh and mainland Europe. Put them together and you have ‘doggerfrsher’. a name you’re not likely to forget.
Opening on Saturday l2 May. doggerfrsher is. surprisingly. Edinburgh’s first and only independent contemporary commercial art agency. dedicated to working exclusively with contemporary artists. ‘My whole feeling was. post-devolution, Scotland’s capital needed to have a resolutely contemporary art gallery that can represent artists, sell their work and be an independent. private gallery that can hold its own against London gallenes.’ says Beaumont.
‘[ feel very strongly about Scotland and being in Edinburgh but there is a tendency of being caught up in heritage.’ she adds.
‘Edinburgh is knowingly a good-looking city, but I feel it’s very important in the 21st century that it is seen as a very contemporary city. Obviously it cherishes its history and its beauty but it should also look forward. A space like doggerfrsher is about looking forward and being optimistic and not being caught up in tartan and shortbread.’
Beaumont‘s optimism and enthusiasm is infectious. so too is her detennination. Apart from moral support from friends and family. doggerfrsher has been a solo project. From initially finding the space to putting on her paint clothes at the weekend, her strong-
rnindedness and strength of character has produced an exciting space that Edinburgh can be proud of.
‘I enjoy a challenge.’ she enthuses. ‘I’ve known nothing like it. but I think if you believe in something, you can find the energy, but if you don’t, the energy seeps away.’
In the preliminary stages of her project. she spent much of her time speaking to artists, finding out what they wanted. With many artists still leaving Scottish shores for the bright lights of London. Beaumont wants Scotland-based artists to remain local. Doggerﬁsher is not just about showing cutting-edge contemporary art. it is also there to represent artists. Currently representing five artists. Beaumont recognises that there’s a world outside Scotland. She attended two important art fairs this year, the London Art Fair in January and Arco in Madrid a