Angela Flowers obituary


In 1936, Geoffrey and Olive Holland moved to a home that they had had constructed for themselves close to Reigate in Surrey. It was, as their daughter, Angela, would recall, talked about in Pevsner’s county information. “A lot much less gauche than most Thirties homes” was the gazetteer’s backhanded verdict.

The primary British fee of Frederick Curtis, a refugee from Nazi Germany, the home, which they referred to as Peverel, was moderately braver than that. So, too, was the gathering of artwork that it housed: amongst others, works by such dangerous stars of the avant garde as John Piper and John Minton. When the Hollands’ daughter opened a gallery in London 4 many years later, it was with the data that amassing referred to as for braveness.

Angela Flowers, who has died aged 90, by no means lacked for that. In 1970, when she took over a small area above the Artists Worldwide Affiliation gallery at 15 Lisle Road, Soho, central London, she had been working as a bookkeeper on the Institute of Up to date Arts. Based within the 30s, the AIA was a leftwing co-op; Flowers, virtuously poor, was given the attic room rent-free. The fast business success of her gallery got here as a shock.

“We’d have these dreadful conferences by which folks would cry,” Flowers later cheerily recalled. “The AIA hated me.” When the affiliation disbanded the next yr, she moved the Angela Flowers Gallery to Portland Mews after which, in 1979, to Tottenham Mews. It rapidly grew to become a fixture on the London artwork scene.

Her childhood residence aside, there had been little in Flowers’s previous to counsel a profession as a gallerist. She was born in Croydon, the place her household had lived for generations; just a few years after her beginning her father inherited a legacy that enabled him to construct the home in Surrey. Whereas Angela was nonetheless a baby, the second world conflict started. Geoffrey served in Italy as an intelligence officer; Olive (nee Stiby) volunteered for munitions manufacturing facility work; and Angela was despatched to boarding faculty – at Westonbirt, Gloucestershire, and Wychwood in Oxford. This was adopted by a diploma on the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Artwork in London.

In 1952, after a shaky begin as an actor – she performed a Dagenham Lady Piper within the first Benny Hill movie – she met the photographer Adrian Flowers. It was a intercalary year: on 29 February, Angela proposed marriage to him, and was turned down. A couple of weeks later, Adrian relented. Shortly afterwards, his new spouse discovered she was pregnant. By 1970, the couple had three sons, Adam, Matthew and Daniel, and a daughter, Francesca.

The ICA’s receptionist, now a pal, had been married to the painter Patrick Hughes; Flowers invited him to turn into her first artist. Hughes accepted, and was to stick with the assorted iterations of the Flowers gallery for greater than half a century. This set a sample that might final. Requested, in an interview in 2016, for the factors she utilized in deciding on her secure, Flowers put loyalty on the prime of her record. This was each demanded and returned.

In contrast to these of most London gallerists, Flowers’s artists caught by her: painters resembling Tom Phillips, Derek Hirst and Bernard Cohen had been all with the gallery for greater than 30 years, as was the sculptor Nicola Hicks. (Hicks, moreover, married Flowers’s youngest son, Daniel.)

The gallery dealt solely within the work of residing British artists, and nothing made earlier than 1952. For all that, most of its secure had been born moderately earlier. Though there was no such factor as a Flowers fashion, the work she confirmed tended in the direction of the established. Consequently, it was ignored by such arbiters of avant-garde style as Nicholas Serota and Charles Saatchi. This was a supply of some annoyance to Flowers, though it did her gallery no apparent hurt.

Her style in artwork was broadly anticipated, however her enterprise sense was not. The annual Artist of the Day programme, arrange in 1983, rapidly caught the attention of critics. Giving younger unknowns 24-hour exhibitions in a longtime gallery, Artist of the Day was a typical Flowers mixture of generosity and hard-headedness. When, in 1988, she reopened her gallery in Hackney as Flowers East, the transfer anticipated by a decade the invention of the world as residence to the London up to date artwork scene.

By then, Flowers’s marriage to Adrian had ended. Opening her first gallery in 1970, she had met the administration author Robert Heller. To the anguish of her kids, the 2 started an affair. Their relationship was to final till Heller’s loss of life in 2012, though they married solely in 2003. Flowers’s divorce from her first husband got here by means of on her fortieth birthday, in December 1972. 9 months later, in September 1973, a daughter, Rachel, was born.

If the partnership with a administration guru appeared unlikely, it turned out to be solely appropriate. Changing a big East Finish fur warehouse into an artwork area referred to as for extra money than Flowers had. Heller, smart within the methods of company funding, urged a enterprise enlargement scheme.

Whereas this offered the mandatory capital – in 2016, Flowers East would have a workers of 24 and a turnover of greater than £6m – it additionally required the gallery to turn into a public firm. Flowers’s second son, Matthew, took over the working of the enterprise, which in 2020 reached Hong Kong, though Flowers herself remained firmly accountable for its artists.

She saved this position regardless of many calls on her time. Rachel had been born with Down’s syndrome. Shortly after the beginning, Flowers recalled, a “very haughty sister” strode into her room and demanded to know when she was going to have the infant institutionalised. One other had whispered, “They don’t reside lengthy you, know”. Unusually for the time, Rachel stayed at residence along with her mother and father. “Having the primary 4 didn’t cease my profession,” her mom stated, briskly, “and having Rachel wouldn’t, both.”

To her pleasure, her youthful daughter could be a profitable artist, though Rachel didn’t present with the household agency. “I don’t thoughts a little bit of nepotism,” famous Flowers, “however I’d prefer to see her with one other gallery.”

On the flip of the century, Robert developed Parkinson’s illness. In 2009, the couple moved from Highgate in north London to a extra manageable home close to Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire. There, Flowers continued the Easter and New 12 months’s events for which the pair had been famous, carrying kaftans and huge necklaces to dispense champagne and heat. Sometimes, she additionally transformed the backyard shed into an artwork gallery.

Flowers is survived by her kids.


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