Ipswich: Contemporary art within historic port buildings

Antony Coe has been running the John Russell Gallery in Wherry Lane, at the Waterfront for 20 years.

Antony Coe has been running the John Russell Gallery in Wherry Lane, at the Waterfront for 20 years. - Credit: Lucy Taylor

Art gallery owner Tony Coe is celebrating 20 years at Ipswich Waterfront.

jazz star George Melly, left, and Tony Coe centre, at the opening of the John Russell Gallery, Wherr

jazz star George Melly, left, and Tony Coe centre, at the opening of the John Russell Gallery, Wherry Lane, Ipswich - Credit: contributed

His John Russell Gallery in Wherry Lane was opened 20 years ago this month.

Although the gallery had been operating since 1979, it moved to the Waterfront and was opened by art critic, writer and jazz musician George Melly in September 1994.

Well known local painter and art teaacher Colin Moss was there, as it celebrated his work, and Maggi Hambling, a student of Colin’s, as Tony himself had also been.

Maggi has become a famous artist in her own right since then, of coures.

The exhibition celebrated the 80th birthday of Ipswich based painter, art critic and head of art at the Ipswich Art College, Colin Moss RA.

Tony remembers: “We put on three exhibitions here, and at Christchurch Mansion and at the Boundary Gallery in St John’s Wood.

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“Maggi had been a student of Colin’s when I was, and she came here on the opening day. She painted George Melly, and I think she made a statue of him too.

“Colin was also art critic for the East Anglian Daily Times for many years.”

It has been a time of celebrations for artist and musician Tony. He turned 70 in August and had a garden party at his home, with music from his band, of course. And he had his son’s wedding to attend.

His gallery is one of the longest running contemporary art galleries in East Anglia now, and a permanent fixture as the old dock area has been transformed around it.

It is within the Isaac Lord complex of historic buildings and once stored coal, wheat and other grain, and before that salt.

“That is where the name Salthouse Street comes from. The salt was for preserving meat,” he said.

“When we came down here it was very much a working dock, with trains on the quayside and the odd boat delivering wood or grain.

“Where have all those years gone?

“There was very little down here then. How it has changed.”

“The gallery has since held many exciting and varied exhibitions over the years and continues to be the premier gallery in the town. We are currently showing the new flower watercolours of Sudbury based artist Christopher Ryland until October 4.”

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