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MILLGATE GALLERY (article first published : 2003-01-23)

Finding outlets where they can show and sell is a problem for artists. Paintings and sculptures are expensive and would-be buyers are often diffident about going to artists' studios, concerned that it might be difficult to say “no”. So the opening of a new commercial gallery on the Midlands Meander last week is good news for buyers and sellers alike.

The Millgate Gallery, which adjoins the Glass Studio at Balgowan, has been built by Ben Temkin and his wife, Jean. Temkin writes a fortnightly financial column for the Natal Witness but though both the Temkins are financial journalists, they are also creative artists, and art - theirs and other people's - is their passion.

In the past, the Temkins have lived in the Netherlands and in Johannesburg but the KZN Midlands have exerted their pull. It was when Temkin was working as a consultant on the Financial Mail that they visited the Midlands and saw the property which included the Glass Studio and two houses. Buying it took time, with the previous owners changing their minds more than once, but in the end the whole plan came together with the Temkins, their daughter and son-in-law all moving to KZN and into the two houses on the property.

"Originally, we thought we would show our own art in the Glass Studio shop," says Temkin. "But that was a wrong think - art and commercial craft don't go together." So the next plan was to build a separate gallery, not just for the Temkins' own work.

Temkin wants to see the gallery offering a place where young black artists can find a space to work, and, when they are ready, exhibit. Both he and Jean were involved with Bill Ainslie at the Johannesburg Art Foundation from its inception in the 1970s and the work done there is what he would like to see replicated in Balgowan. "I'm not talking about a teaching institution, but a place where people can work together," he says.

The gallery will also exhibit work from artists all over South Africa - it is not intended to restrict it to those in the Midlands. The first exhibition showcases work by Val Stevens (pastels); Amanda Campbell (painting and ceramics); Hermine Spies Coleman, Sue Platt and Vanessa Lampon (all paintings); Severino Braccialarghe (marble and bronze sculptures); Stephen Pryke (photographs); Louise van Niekerk (glass and painting); Jean Temkin (painting, ceramics and copper reliefs) and Ben Temkin (painting). In addition, the exhibition features exquisite papier machè dolls made by women of the Abosisi Be Afrika project in Gauteng and dressed by rural communities; stone sculptures by a group of Swazi artists and wooden sculptures by Kasavubu, a Congolese artist the Temkins have known since their Johannesburg Art Foundation days.

Besides the Millgate Gallery, the Temkins are involved in another project, setting up an Arts and Crafts Advancement Group, which will identify and work with artists in the Midlands Meander area, although they may not be members of the Meander. "We have the support of the Meander," says Temkin who envisages the group as something of a fine art arm of the Meander, offering support to artists working in the area who cannot afford, either in cash or commitment, to belong to the Meander and keep their studios open to all comers. Although at an early stage of development, the group hopes to arrange exhibitions at a variety of venues and raise the profile of art in the area.

To contact Ben Temkin and Millgate Gallery, phone 033 234 4230.




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