Gallery

Window Gallery Fine Art & Framing

Window Gallery was established in 1982, ostensibly as an exhibition space and outlet for the paintings and prints of Philip Dunn but has shown work by upwards of 100 other artists since then, becoming "Brighton's most successful gallery" and through which Philip became "Brighton's best-known artist".

Originally, the gallery was run by a partnership between Carole-Anne White, Philip's wife, and Michael Thompson, his oldest friend and best man at their wedding, with Philip remaining a supplier and an artistic adviser. The name, Window Gallery, came from a brainstorming session with dictionaries and a thesaurus, and the final choice was deemed the most appropriate for its association with viewing. All three had to sign a new long lease on No. 3 Dukes Lane, a fairly new development, (which had quickly earned the nickname Bankruptcy Row), in the Lanes area of Brighton, but it had the advantage of not requiring a premium to be paid. However, the small amount of capital available to the three naive investors soon disappeared into turning a failed fabric shop into a plausible commercial art gallery.

Fortunately, however, Window Gallery proved to be an instant success, aided by an almost total lack of serious competition, despite Brighton's renowned artistic heritage and its reputation as the venue for the largest arts festival in England. The demand for reproductions as well as the originals of Philip Dunn's vibrant and evocative paintings of Brighton's seafront, both with and without deckchairs, immediately outstripped what had been anticipated in all but his wildest dreams. It soon became apparent that more suitable premises for picture framing than Mike Thompson's rented flat in Hove's Palmeira Square were urgently required and, very soon, a workshop in a backstreet also proved totally inadequate. So, a light industrial unit in Dyke Road Mews was fitted out as a bespoke and stock frame factory, by which time Window Gallery had taken on a number of full and part-time employees in order to cope and, particularly at Christmas, even Philip found himself assembling frames in vast, but rapidly disappearing stacks.

While Carole and Philip were on holiday in the summer of 1987, smoke damage caused by a fire in the premises adjoining Window Gallery's picture framing workshop necessitated a temporary move, resulted in a very complicated and acrimonious insurance claim and, before this was settled, heralded the breakup of the partnership between Mike and Carole. Thus, in the spring of 1988, Carole found herself a sole trader and Window Gallery went on from strength to strength.

In 1994, the nearby but far more prominent, if rather rundown, shop premises on the corner of Ship Street and Prince Albert Street became available and, despite the ongoing recession and the property market having been in the doldrums for years, Carole saw a unique opportunity to put Window Gallery squarely (or, more precisely, triangularly) on the map. After everything from the floor to the roof had undergone repairs and the premises had been fitted out and painted, (notably, with all five workers arriving for work one day riding unicycles), Window Gallery opened in time for its best Christmas ever. For the following 12 and half years, an ever-changing selection of the largest of Philip's originals commanded the view over Ship Street. Alongside work by other artists represented at Window Gallery too numerous to name here, images by such noteworthy artists as Ilana Richardson, Brenda Hartill, Glynn Thomas and Sam Toft were also always given pride of place.

However, a side effect of this gentrification of what had been an area featuring mainly dark and dusty antique shops that not only did not open at weekends, but also excluded the public with "Trade Only" signs, was to create an opportunity for forcing up the rents. Thus, to their astonishment, their new landlord, himself an antique dealer with a family history of trading in the area, doubled the rent overnight, only 4 years after Philip and Carole had negotiated a new 10 year lease. Suffice it to say that this made the overheads so stupendous that Window Gallery was suddenly hardly a viable business anymore, and Carole and Philip were forced to relinquish the leases to this and their picture framing workshop premises in June 2007.

No longer up Ship Street, with or without a paddle, for the following 3 years Window Gallery existed as an online entity only, with orders for Philip's work processed from the couple's home in Ditchling. Until, at the beginning of 2010, ideally suited premises, conveniently sited just down the road, became unexpectedly available at the Turner Dumbrell Workshops, which are primarily intended as art and craft studios.

So, by the middle of that February, their friend, circus-skilled handyman and part-time picture framer, Stephen Barker, who had overseen all the shopfitting in both of Window Gallery's previous retail premises, had installed a picture hanging system in the new gallery, unpacked the freshly delivered picture framing equipment and had reminded Philip how it was all supposed to work. Promising to return before the end of April to resume his picture framing duties, Steve set off in his huge fully equipped and victualled Commer van and trailer, in order to continue following his dream of catering to crew and staff at music festivals. He spent at least a fortnight annually at Glastonbury, for instance, but this time his destination was Orgiva in the south of Spain, a notorious hippie gathering place.

A couple of weeks later, Philip had a cardiac arrest but he and Steve kept in contact with each other by a combination of SMS text and email messages. On 21 April, after Steve had been to a long weekend party in Lisbon, Portugal, he texted: Ola Philip, back uk mon late, spk tues, can work weds onwards thanx 4 sorting c/card. Have dosh. Hasta. Steve x

Alas, it was not to be. Steve caught the train back to Orgiva so that he could collect his van and start the journey home, but he had a massive stroke on the train from which he died. Therefore, Window Gallery reopened in its new premises on 1 May 2010 but with Carole and Philip completing all the picture framing tasks between them. Carole successfully completed a picture framing course through one of their major suppliers, but she was struggling with the ever deeper depression from which she had suffered for decades. Tragically, on the morning of 25 April 2013, Carole took her own life.

Since then, Philip has ironically found himself singlehandedly running the gallery that was established all those years ago in order to allow him to paint without the responsibility of having to present and sell his own work himself. However, as far as he can see, this History of Window Gallery and Philip's own Biography are, from now on, one and the same story.