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)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Sport
Steven Fletcher scores the second goal for Scotland
cricketBut they have to bounce back to beat Gibraltar in Euro 2016 qualifier
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans is the favourite to replace Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear
TV
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing