Lowry in Kingsclere
Oh Kingsclere, you do me proud. If you haven’t visited this North Hampshire spot-of-joy, then why not? London, you are so 2016. Free parking, great food and fashion, smiling faces, soaring walks and, oh look, a world-renowned art gallery just off the high street: if you haven’t heard about Jenna Burlingham Fine Art, then here’s your opportunity.
In a previous life, Jenna was Bonhams’ 20th Century British art expert and director at specialist London dealer, Offer Waterman, and it shows. She has a deep knowledge and appreciation of Modern British Art, you could describe JB Fine Art as a gallery version of Christie’s South Kensington.
Most of her clients are UK-wide, London or States based and and the gallery holds regular exhibitions in The Capital.
Kingsclere, though, is HQ: a higgledy building all mid-century furniture, beams hieroglyphed with age and stonking works of 20th Century British Art. Did I mention Henry Moore and the occasional Lowry?
It feels like a home, albeit exquisitely appointed, so unlike many a sterile gallery it isn’t hard to imagine these works in a domestic setting. *Sigh. Attempts not to compare own toddler-proofed dwelling.*
Feeling impressed, yet slightly intimidated? Fear not, you could call the gallery a gateway into fine art, especially for women. And especially for women passionate about interior design.
You’ll find none of that, oh-so-common, art-world snobbery against viewing paintings in terms of interiors. Yes, Jenna knows the virtues of Vorticism verses Cornish Abstraction (no, me neither…), but she will also gladly guide you to the piece which makes your brand-spanking new kitchen sing. After an initial visit to the gallery to gauge preferences, she often loads her car with gems to try out in clients’ houses.
As well as regular tie-ins with Colefax and Fowler, Jenna runs the Modern British Art section at the tri-annual Battersea Decorative Arts Fair. Highly respected and full of juicy design inspiration, it is also beloved by c’lebs: Oprah’s a regular and the whole shebang is often closed for private views by a certain by Mr and Mrs D. Beckham.
So yes, Jenna Burlingham Fine Art is definitely playing with the big guns of the art and interior design world, but its ethos remains genuinely friendly.
I first visited incognito, trench coat lapels flipped high. No-one batted an eyelid at the crazy, Clouseau lady. Instead, they greeted me with a smiling hello and offered a cup of tea. So British, love it.
Once I’d flipped my collar down and could actually see, the quality on display blindsided me. Walking off the streets of Kingsclere to find a Moore, really? And there are plenty more exquisite pieces of art, ceramics and sculpture here — with exquisite prices to match — from established Modern British artists such as Ivon Hitchens and Elisabeth Frink, to respected contemporary artists including Lindy Guinness and Nicholas Turner.
Unlike her metropolitan counterparts who pay megabucks rent, Jenna can afford to support new artists and show work with a price tag under four figures. Art lovers and students are very welcome, even if they don’t have plans to purchase. One well-loved regular rarely buys but simply pops-in as a mood lifting distraction from her mother’s illness.
So whether your pockets are deeper than the Mariana Trench or more akin to Mudeford flats, you must visit.
Jenna Burlingham Fine Art, 2a George Street, Kingsclere, Hampshire, RG20 5NQ. Tel: 01635 298855. jennaburlingham.com