Praise for Harrogate's departing 'inspiring' art curator

Blockbuster successes - Jane Sellars admires an Atkinson Grimshaw at Harrogate's Mercer Art Gallery.
Blockbuster successes - Jane Sellars admires an Atkinson Grimshaw at Harrogate's Mercer Art Gallery.

Updated version: One of the Harrogate art world's most important and long-standing figures has been hailed as "innovative and inspiring" after she announced she was stepping down.

News of the departure of Jane Sellars from her full-time role as Harrogate Borough Council's curator of cultural services has led the Friends of Mercer Gallery to get in touch with the Harrogate Advertiser.
Chair of The Friends of Mercer Gallery, Judith Thomas said: "Jane has really excelled in her work at the gallery.Since the Mercer opened 27 years ago, we have been justly proud of the quality and strength of the exhibitions and collections throughout.
"But when she arrived 14 years ago, Jane brought her greta knowledge and flare to build on those foundations to keep the Mercer in the forefront of galleries in the north of England.
"Jane has been an innovative and inspiring curator and the Friends of Mercer Gallery have worked hard to help maintain her vision of an exciting future for the gallery."

Jane Sellars, left, with Pop Artist Sir Peter Blake in 2016 at Mercer Art Gallery who is pictured with his wife Lady Chrissy Blake. (1601112AM5)

Jane Sellars, left, with Pop Artist Sir Peter Blake in 2016 at Mercer Art Gallery who is pictured with his wife Lady Chrissy Blake. (1601112AM5)


The reasons for Jane Sellars' departure is the same one behind her success in the role for so long - putting creative ideas first.
Appointed curator of art for Harrogate by Harrogate Borough Council in 2003 before rising to become curator of cultural services in 2014 with an overview over the Pump Room Museum, her move is in no way related to a recent flood which saw her and her staff reverting to a very hands-on role!


Jane said: "I've worked in museums and galleries for more than 30 years now with the responsibility for people, buildings, high value art collections and most importantly for the service we provide for our visitors.
"My job has always had a high creative element, curating exhibitions, writing and research, and that’s the part I enjoy the most, so I am leaving to concentrate on the creative side. I am going to work on some new projects - and have a good time as well!"


In terms of exhibitions, Jane's tenure has helped shine a light consistently on many talented women artists and also on Harrogate itself as a centre of fine art.
The Mercer Gallery's main hall is currently playing host to Picturing Women, an exhibition marking 100 years since women first got the vote, featuring the work of inspirational women artists past and present.
Jane has also been responsible for record-breaking shows in terms of attendance which have received acclaim in the national media, especially Atkinson Grimshaw: Painter of Moonlight in 2011, which saw people queuing to get in, and Art and Yorkshire: From Turner to Hockney in 2014.
Jane also spoke about how she had addressed her key aims for the gallery.
She said: "The Harrogate Fine Art Collection is extremely good, with some real treasures, but it was lacking in good contemporary art, so I set about improving that with the help of the Contemporary Art Society and the Friends of the Mercer Art Gallery. The collection is now particularly strong in contemporary photography and the work of women artists."


With a CV including art curator at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, director of the Brontë Parsonage Museum at Haworth and principal curator of Harewood House, Jane is used to shouldering responsibility at the highest level.
Major projects in her 15 years include a major refurbishment of the Mercer Art Gallery in 2011 which involved raising extensive funding.


Jane has also been responsible for record-breaking shows in terms of attendance which have received acclaim in the national media, especially Atkinson Grimshaw: Painter of Moonlight in 2011, which saw people queuing to get in, and Art and Yorkshire: From Turner to Hockney in 2014.
Jane said: "It’s hard not to notice my career long support for women artists, a subject I have written about a lot.
"But I also wanted to build on the strength of our collection of paintings and prints by the Victorian William Powell Frith, Harrogate’s most famous artist.
"Since I first arrived at the the Mercer in 2003 I haveraised the money to buy six important oil paintings by Frith."
As well as safeguarding the many treasures of the Harrogate Borough Council-owned gallery's own fine art collection and maintaining the popularity of the annual Harrogate Open exhibition for local artists, Jane has also been responsible for the publication of an intelligently-collated, lavishly illustrated themed books on art from the Mercer.
The book on Grimshaw sold more than 5,000 copies, a phenomenal achievement for a town's gallery.


Jane said she hoped the Harrogate district's collection of public galleries would continue to prosper and grow,.
She said: "I would love to see the Mercer, the Royal Pump Room museum and Knaresborough Castle and the courthouse Museum continue to flourish.
We have been working for some time on a bid to raise the funds to refurbish the Pump Room, and this is moving forward."


Jane may be standing down in her present role at the Mercer but she will still be helming some potentially blockbuster shows in a freelance role at the gallery over the next year,
This June will bring a retrospective of the celebrated artist and cartoonist Posy Simmonds, whose graphic novels Gemma Bovery and Tamara Drewe have delighted huge audiences of readers, plus drawings for her Guardian cartoons in the 1980s and 1990s lent by the Guardian Archive.
The autumn will see Their Safe Haven: Hungarian Artists 1930 – 1980.


And there's more. Despite her decision to go, the best may be yet to come.
Jane said: "I am going to stay on as Art Projects Curator for the Mercer for another 12 months to work on my last big show William Powell Frith: The People’s Painter, which will happen in 2019, the bicentenary of the artist’s birth.
"This should be an absolute blockbuster with all of Frith’s important works on show and many from private collections that haven’t been seen for many years. Really looking forward to that
"I am also going to work freelance on new visual arts projects, and I am going to carry on with my writing career."