Why McKay Williamson Gallery in Notting Hill is not your typical London art gallery
Caspar David finds out how McKay Williamson Gallery takes a uniquely client-centred approach
I was interested to discover McKay Williamson, founded 20 years ago in Notting Hill by Richard Williamson. This is not a typical art gallery; yes they have artwork on the walls, but they don’t hold exhibitions to promote a single artist’s work.
They claim their approach is client-centred rather than artist-centred – that they want to ‘get to know each client’, that person’s taste and budget, their experience level with buying art, and what makes that person tick. As a veritable novice in buying art, the idea sounded promising.
Before my visit, I’m sent their ‘Art-I-Love’ Review online. It’s a digital tool to discover which styles of art I like, without needing any specialist language – I’ve no idea of the difference between cubism and expressionism, but this doesn’t matter. I’m shown hundreds of pieces and asked to choose my favs. Quite fun, really.
Richard is disarmingly straightforward and, without overstepping, likes to find out what makes you tick, almost like diving into your soul. Sounds a tad deep I know, but it’s a strangely peaceful journey he takes.
“We tailor recommendations to clients, but what we really offer is a relationship with creative work, a willingness to take the time to help you find and buy pieces you’ll really love,” he says. “So I want to ask you about the most important parts of your life. For the sake of illustration, let’s say you mention a place that was significant. I might suggest a cityscape or landscape of that place. If you are open to the idea, we might find an artist whose style you like and either purchase or commission a painting of that place. Visitors have no idea it’s a commission piece, if that’s required, but for you the piece becomes soulfully profound.”
I ask him how much should someone invest when starting to buy art for their home? “I would first ask if they’re making an emotional or a financial investment? If they say the former, we represent dozens of artists whose work is under £10k, many under £4k, and the calibre of art at this level is phenomenal. If they want a financial investment, too, I will only recommend artists who have a certain sort of track record. This is usually going to mean £10k+,”says Richard.
Another unique part of his business is the design studio. His team works with clients to transform personal photos into digital art. I flick through their portfolio to see some fairly mundane photos of a family on a beach transformed into a Retro Poster on Primrose Hill, and another where a photo of a young boy playing was made into a Banksy-inspired bit of adolescent edginess.
In the end, however, I choose a painting by Patrick Reeves of New York, a city I love, which Richard points out also has the colours from my outfit (and most of my wardrobe). Well noticed, Richard.
For now, it seems this place is disrupting the gallery world norms, by actually caring which art it places in people’s homes. Fascinating.