Art blossoms out despite bleak picture: In the second of our series on creative businesses, Angela Flowers talks to Richard Lander

Nobody could pretend that these have been anything other than terrible times for art galleries. The large buyers have gone into hibernation and there is an endless list of galleries that have gone bust.

We have suffered as well - we made substantial losses last year against a small profit before tax in 1991 - but we've bucked the trend, expanding with our new space, Flowers East, at London Fields, which opened last year. We've also been helped by the prices of our paintings - you can pay up to pounds 50,000 but you can also buy many in the pounds 600- pounds 700 price range. I also think we have some pretty good artists.

We operate what can best be called a stable of artists. There are 28 of them for exhibit solely through us. They're not tied to us through a written contract but through a verbal deal - we seem to develop the best sales and the best relationships when an artist has complete confidence in us. They know we'd get pretty upset if they showed elsewhere but, very rarely, we have been known to turn a blind eye to the odd misdemeanour. We do also show artists from outside the stable from time to time, provided they don't have ties with another gallery. But we don't do that more than once every six or seven months - our own artists need a show here every two years or so to keep them in the public eye.

The basis of our financial relationship with the artists is simple enough. We take 50 per cent of the sale price, they take the other half. We add on (and pass on) VAT and the artist pays for the framing, although we may help out with an advance.

We also offer retainers to some of our best artists; we used to pay more retainers but the recession has meant that we pay only a few now. Like most galleries we give a discount to museums, which is shared between us and the artists.

There are some frighteningly high fixed costs that have to be paid for before the first painting is sold. Rent and rates have risen dramatically since we started the business in 1970 and have probably been the main cause of many other galleries going out of business. We also have to budget for three or four catalogues a year at about pounds 12,000 each.

Like many other businesses, we cannot make money on all our 'lines' all of the time. On any given exhibition we need to sell at least half of the paintings on display to break even and to sell that many is most unusual. What it boils down to is that our best- selling artists support the others. Our biggest seller is Peter Howson - who has just returned from the warfront in Bosnia - followed by Patrick Hughes, who I opened with back in 1970 and who has been faithful to the gallery for over 23 years.

But we are more than just an exhibition gallery. We have worked hard at diversifying into other sources of income. We saw a demand for prints, both of our artists and of others, and we now sell them in the Graphics Gallery and through a print of the month club. We have also extended our range of clients by exhibiting at international art fairs. They are extremely time-consuming to set up and organise and sometimes we barely break even. But they are absolutely necessary, from a PR and marketing point of view.

Another source of expansion has been the corporate art market - companies buying paintings for their offices. Despite the recession it has improved in recent years as companies have built up their collections, and has helped to take up some of the falling demand among individual collectors; though we've found individuals coming back quite strongly this year.

Why have we survived where others have failed? I think partly because we have placed a strong emphasis on running the gallery as a business. We have a stockbroker, an accountant and two bankers - one of them Sir Kit McMahon - on the board.

We have also taken advantage of the BES scheme to allow us to expand with cheap money - we raised pounds 500,000 in 1990 which was used to get Flowers East going and are currently raising another pounds 750,000. Investors are warned that they will not get any dividends during the five years of the BES investment. But they can see from our prospectus that we are expanding rapidly, and, recession aside, working profitably.

(Photographs omitted)

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Graduate Recruitment Consultant - 2013/14 Grads - No Exp Needed

£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Law Costs

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence