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What Are the Mall Galleries?

Dan Harkins
Dan Harkins

The Mall Galleries are a showcase of contemporary art near London's Trafalgar Square where the country's Federation of British Artists (FBA) takes up residence and flexes its muscles. Composed of three separate galleries, the Mall hosts the annual shows of the FBA's subsidiary associations as well as other shows on a for-hire basis. Art from living artists, when considered exemplary, is the chief focus of the mall's curators and FBA management.

Located at in the heart of London, the Mall Galleries are about a block from the United Kingdom's National Gallery, which was built in 1832 to be the repository of some of the nation's greatest artworks. The galleries host a range of regular events and showings in between the FBA's offices on Carlton House Terrace and the Mall. Due to the FBA's corralling of various organizations, there is never a shortage of new work to display.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

In all, nine membership organizations under the FBA umbrella coordinate annual shows at the Mall Galleries as of 2011. Some of these unions focus on painters: Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI), Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RP) and Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI). The rest of the nine cover art on a broader scale: The Pastel Society (PS), Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA), Royal Society of British Artists (RBA), New English Art Club, Royal Society of Marine Artists (RSMA), Hesketh Hubbard Art Society. These organizations also participate throughout the year on themed events, as do other organizations, such as the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers.

Renting out extra gallery space is another part of the Mall Galleries' mission for featuring a regular rotation of diverse art from still-living British artists. This mission is in direct contrast to the nearby National Gallery's goal of assembling the best, from artists past and present. Sometimes the display will consume the entire three galleries, such as in late September and early October of 2011, when the Mall Galleries played host to the national Threadneedle Prize paintings and sculptures. At other times, however, three or more shows could be presented at once.

The National Gallery and Mall Galleries complexes constitute a small slice of London's visual arts venues. The U.K.'s National Archives Web site lists a dozen or more galleries that serve as local repositories for collections of world and British Art. Few, if any but the Mall Galleries, are exclusively dedicated to the living members of the country's chief arts unions.

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