Manc of the Month: Alex Reuben

Our September Manc of the Month is the owner of Contemporary Six gallery, Alex Reuben! We dropped into the gallery one day whilst strolling around the city centre, and spent time chatting to Alex and hearing about his story! So we thought we’d elaborate on our conversation and ask him to be our September Manc of the Month! Read on to hear about what it’s like to own a gallery, his advice to artists, and much more.

Cotton on MCR: Please introduce yourself and your work to our Cotton On MCR readers.

Alex Reuben: ‘I am Alex Reuben the owner of Contemporary Six, a leading independent Art Gallery based in Manchester, located on Princess Street opposite the city’s Town Hall. I’m originally from Birmingham but moved to Manchester in 2003 to start an art foundation course at Manchester Metropolitan University, and have been here ever since and now believe I’m a fully-fledged Manc.’

‘I opened the Gallery in 2010 and have worked tirelessly to make Contemporary Six one of the leading Galleries in the North West. The Gallery showcases contemporary artwork that appeals to the taste of the city and the north. We showcase paintings, ceramics, sculptures, and original prints.’

Image of the gallery space

COM: What made you want to own your own gallery, and where did the name Contemporary Six come from?

AR: ‘From a young age I always had entrepreneurial spirit; I would have an abundance of business ideas which I believed were worth experimenting with, only for them to fail and leave me eager to start the next venture. It wasn’t until starting University, and studying Fine Art, that I toyed with the idea of combining my passion and my business ideas. After leaving University, I struggled to find a job in the art industry and worked in retail, selling men’s clothing where I was quickly promoted to assistant manager. Throughout the years in retail, I used my spare time to research and develop a business plan that I believed in and was economically viable.’

‘The decision to start a business was an easy one, I was living at home, I had no serious responsibilities or ties and with the support of my family I took the plunge. The name came from my first location, Unit 6 in the Royal Exchange Arcade. I spent weeks coming up with names that didn’t sound too cheesy. Hopefully I succeeded!’

COM: Contemporary Six showcases a wide variety of incredibly talented artists, what do you look for when hoping to work with new creatives?

AR: ‘The work in the Gallery is a representation of my own taste in artwork so it’s difficult to say what exactly I’m after. There is not one particular style or subject matter I look for. For me it is important that the artists’ style and their work should be cohesive and complement each other on the walls of the Gallery.’

COM: Do you have any favourite artists/favourite style of work?

AR: ‘I have a varied taste in art, artists I admire include:

Billy Childish, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Patrick Heron, Keith Vaughan, Ryan Mosley, Ben Nicholson, Leon Kossoff, Lucie Rie, Christopher Nevinson, William Kentridge, Paula Rego and Émile Bernard.’

Poster on display in the gallery, also available on the website

COM: What exciting events are there coming up at Contemporary Six that we should know about?

AR: ‘The diary of Contemporary Six is packed with exhibitions for the next 18 months. Since reopening post-pandemic, we have worked hard to get people back into the Gallery and to reintroduce art in the community. Our first show (September 4th) is a solo exhibition of Michael Ashcroft’s paintings; ‘From Manchester to New York’. After that we have solo shows by Craig Jefferson and we are excited to be exhibiting artwork by Jim Moir (AKA Vic Reeves) in November. We are very much looking forward to the annual Manchester Art Fair where we showcase a variety of our Gallery artists work and original exhibition posters from the 50s – 80s. Due to the pandemic our 10 year anniversary show had to be postponed. So this December we will hold our 10+1 Anniversary exhibition.’

‘We are currently in talks regarding shows for 2022 but we can assure our clients we have some very exciting exhibitions lined up. These include shows from new ceramic artists, Gallery artists such as Matthew Bourne and Norman Long, and an all-female exhibition to celebrate the diverse work of female artists.’

‘Deansgate and Bridge Street Crossover’ by Michael Ashcroft

COM: Were there any challenges with establishing your own gallery that you hadn’t thought of before?

AR: ‘Loads!!!’

COM: If you could give advice to artists who are just at the beginning of their career, what would it be?

AR: ‘Firstly, keep working and creating. You must be 100% committed. It is such a difficult profession, that if you stop or take a break you will go backwards. Get on Social media, it’s free, build up a following, this in turn will add a feather to your cap when/if approaching Galleries. If you are looking to get your work into a Gallery, make sure to do your research. There’s no point approaching Galleries which specialise in Modern British sculptures if you draw Formula 1 cars!’

Alex in front of a Terry Frost painting in the gallery

COM: This past year and a half has been incredibly difficult for the creative industry, how has it had an effect on you and your gallery?

AR: ‘I have to say when Covid started back in March 2020 I was extremely worried and anxious (nothing new there then!). On top of the work stress, my wife and I were expecting our second child so things felt quite scary. Due to a great location most of my sales have traditionally come from footfall. Over lockdown this location suddenly didn’t feel so great. Luckily at this point I had been open almost 10 years, so I had a strong mailing list and a good reputation, so clients felt comfortable buying work online. We held regular online exhibitions as well as shows in virtual spaces. It has been a learning curve and I hope when things start to return to some normality, I will have learned something from this awful situation.’

‘Empire State Building by Night’ by Michael Ashcroft

COM: Away from the Contemporary Six, what are your hobbies or interests?

AR: ‘My hobbies are mostly to do with art. I read as well as visiting galleries and shows. I’m also a bit of a foodie, so going out for meals with friends and family, and I’m into films.’

COM: Last question! If you could live in any piece of art, what would it be?

AR: ‘If you mean in and not with, then it would have to be ‘A Bigger Splash’ by David Hockney.’

‘A Bigger Splash’ by David Hockney (1967)

You can find out more about Alex and the gallery by visiting their website: Contemporary Six.

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