Leslie Lohman Museum

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Part 1:
ADONIS ART
London's Only Gay Art Gallery

By David Jarrett


Adonis Art is the only gay art gallery in London selling male figurative works, ranging from paintings, pastels, drawings, prints, to sculpture. The gallery is a treasure of superb male figurative art, representing such contemporary artists as Ivor Anderson, Miles Antony, Warwick Beecham, Cornelius McCarthy, Andrew Potter, Fletcher Prentice, Matthew Stradling, and Richard Wallace.


The gallery is located in the Earls Court section of London at 1b Coleherne Road, London, SW10 9BS [telephone and fax (011) 44 20 7460-3888], across the street from the long-standing Colherne gay bar. A few blocks away from the Earls Court underground station, the gallery is open from 10:30am to 6:30pm Monday through Friday and from 10:30pm to 5:00pm on Saturday. It is closed Sunday.


Statement of Purpose
“Adonis Art specializes in fine antique and contemporary works of art that celebrate the male body in all of its strength and beauty.”

 

Gallery Founded in 1995
Adonis Art was originally founded in May 1995 by Stewart Hardman and was initially located in the “Antiquarius” antique centre on Kings Road in Chelsea, London. Occupying two floors in a small space, the gallery specialized in antique male bronze statues and old drawings of male figures. At that time, several contemporary artists who painted the male body (some of whom had been previously represented by the legendary St. Jude’s, a male figurative gallery in London(1)) approached Hardman to represent them. Thus, in order to expand his offering to include contemporary artists and in order to obtain a larger space, he moved Adonis Art to its present location in Earls Court in September 1, 1996. By moving to this new location away from central London, the rent on the gallery was reduced 80%.


Gallery Operations
The street-level gallery presents art from artists living and dead. The lower level basement gallery is dedicated to one-man shows.


Commencing in September 1996, Adonis Art generally holds 12 one-man exhibits each year, which are booked twelve months in advance. Typically 40 to 50 works of art will be shown in the feature downstairs gallery and in the large display window. Included may be drawings, paintings and occasionally sculpture and photography. At Christmas time, the gallery will show less expensive gay male art. Not all of the artists Adonis Art exhibits are gay men, as some of the artists are women and unknown students of the nineteenth century. Since many of the artists have no place to exhibit male figurative art–typical throughout the world–the gallery provides a much-needed outlet.


Diversified Offerings of Male Figurative Art
Hardman believes in having a diversified offering of male figurative art. His rule is to make each exhibit different from the proceeding one. Hardman avoids mixing contemporary art with old works of art. He personally feels that the Tom of Finland style has had a detrimental effect on gay art, which he believes is overdone, with many artists attempting to imitate his work and providing nothing new. On rare occasions, Hardman admits that he has made a mistake in booking an artist for a future show, generally due to the artist’s inability to duplicate the quality of his portfolio.


Adonis Art has a stable of artists that always have works on exhibit. The principal artist that the gallery represents is Cornelius McCarthy, who was the first artist to have a one-man show in the new Earls Court location. Another principal artist, Miles Anthony, exhibits less expensive watercolors every year.


Excellent Web Site
Launched in September 1998, Adonis Art has an excellent, user-friendly web site (www.adonis-art.com), which Hardman established and has operated since then. The site takes in approximately 500,000 hits per month. The web site is divided into several principal sections: (1) “What’s New,” (2) “About Adonis Art.” (3) “Links,” (4) “Gallery” of Art For Sale (divided between paintings, drawings, sculpture, photographs, and prints), (5) “Current Exhibit”, (6) “Future Exhibits”, (7)”Gallery Shop” (offering gay greeting cards, art books, and modern prints), and (8) “Sold Art.”


The web is an important vehicle to sell gay art, accounting for approximately one third of the revenue from the gallery. Ninety percent of web sales come from collectors in the United States.


Adonis Art Has Developed a Solid Collector Base
The gallery has nurtured a group of approximately 100 collectors of male figurative art, who attend artist openings and have become repeat buyers. One artist, Miles Antony, has a strong collector base of over 50 collectors. Hardman estimates that approximately half of his clients are Americans or London expatriates who reside in the United States. Hardman regularly invites his regular customers to his private art gallery in his flat in Forest Hill, a suburb of London.


Stewart Hardman, Director
Stewart Hardman, 58, director, is the founder and owner of Adonis Art. Trained as an economist at Leicester University, he was graduated in 1967. Prior to his involvement with Adonis Art, for 18 years he produced radio news programs and radio plays for the Capital Radio music station. He covered news, worked on features, etc. By the end of the 1980s, with the radio industry becoming deregulated, the new popular music radio stations eliminated their news content.
Seeing that his work would soon become redundant, in 1989 Hardman commenced selling objects d’art (ceramics, mirrors, candlesticks, etc.) on weekends in a tiny stall space at the Camden indoor market. This effort became fulltime in 1992. Fortune was not with Hardman, as a recession in the U.K. dampened revenues, compelling him to sell his home in order to provide funds to live off. He also broke up with his lover. Discouraged, he quit the object d’art business in January 1995, selling his inventory of objects d’art and borrowing money from a brother to open Adonis Art on May 1, 1995.


Even though Hardman had no training as an artist nor was a collector of art, he recognized the need to specialize in some form of art to be successful. Seeing a void on marketing of male figurative art (after the closing of St, Jude’s in 1992 and its successor gallery, Philip Graham Contemporary Art, in June 1995), he elected to sell male figurative art.

 

(1) St. Jude's, a tiny two-level gallery specializing in male figurative art, was located in the Notting Hill section of London at 107 Kensington Church Street from around 1982 to 1992. Two lovers, Stephen Boyd and Phillip Graham, operated it. Graham closed the gallery in 1992, as he became preoccupied with the care of Boyd, who was critically ill with AIDS. Shortly thereafter, when Graham had been able to organize better care arrangements for Boyd, he opened a second gallery (Phillip Graham Contemporary Art) in late 1992 at 9a-11 Bonhill Street (lower level). This successor gallery closed on June 23, 1995, one month after the death of Stephen Boyd, as Graham was becoming ill too with AIDS. According to a letter from Emmanuel Cooper, a leading art critic and author of The Sexual Perspective, a must-read 369 page illustrated book on figurative and non-figurative art by gay and lesbian artists. St. Jude's opened around 1982 and began speacilizint in "gay art" around 1985.

Part 2: Principal Artists Exhibiting at Adonis Art

 

Visit the Adonis Art website.

 





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Cornelius McCarthy Summerhouse Boy,
2003
Oil on canvas
40" x 32"





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