Galleries: Mother and daughter build a meeting place for artists for urban “Airbnb”


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As students at the Glasgow School of Art’s ground-breaking Environmental Art course, mother and daughter were just a few years apart,

Hilary Nicoll and Zoe Buchanan argue that “context is everything.”

The course was established in 1985 and taught at the art school until his retirement in 2001 by David Harding, whose own career as a renowned public artist followed this mantra, joking that the two were the first mother and daughter he’d ever taught.

Today, Nicoll, who graduated in 1995 as a mature student, and Buchanan, who followed eight years later, have taken the concept that thoughts, meaning and the outside world should push an art practice and run with it.

They’ve had a bit of a bumpy ride as investors in a new pop-up venue and art gallery named Nicolls in Glasgow’s West End – as many companies do in 2020.

Second, mother and daughter took ownership of the old locksmith’s shop

A year ago on Dumbarton Road in Partick and set to operate, stimulated by the possibilities of the original Victorian features loosely emerging within.

The renovation of the unit’s exterior, dating from 1899, was completed by Christmas. The two women found a number of gems in the process, including a rare enameled 1906 Bournville Cocoa label. When they dismantled the store’s fixtures, this unusual “ghost sign” was uncovered under layers of plastic and vinyl.

They also came across a smaller Bovril sign above the front door that read “closed Tuesdays at 1:00”.

With its black fireplace and immaculate walls, the intimate, elegant space was scheduled to be officially opened in March as a pop-up gallery and space for lectures, talks, gatherings, book groups, pop-up stores and releases of items.

Just before Christmas last year, an unofficial opening took place, featuring a retrospective of artwork by Nicoll’s late husband,

From Robert Stewart. With locals and friends taken with the idea, Nicoll’s schedule started to fill up.

“The store was almost but not quite done,” Nicoll says, “but we decided to make people aware of it. Our first official space show, by Peter Kelly, a Glasgow artist and musician, was supposed to open on March 13th weekend, but it didn’t happen because of Covid-19.

“There was a bit of a delay, but we were delighted when Pete’s exhibition of his distinctive paintings, drawings and T-shirts finally opened last weekend.”

The couple’s plans to hold Life Drawing, seminars and activities in the small room have been scuttled by existing limits on social meetings, but there is a packed calendar of exhibitions.

Via the end of the year and pop-ups.

Anne Goldrick, Susan Fair and Fraser Taylor of The Cloth Fame are among the artists who have exhibits scheduled for the room in the coming months.

Buchanan says, “The space lends itself to a few people being in it at a time.” Our queues are getting very welcoming. The line went all the way down the street to the Thornwood traffic circle when the Glasgow PlantMama took it over in August and we reopened it!

“She has an incredible following and is hosting another houseplant sale the weekend of December 15-17.”

Although Covid has taken up a full six months of Nicoll’s planned first year, with his tongue-in-cheek fin-de-siècle aesthetic and community vibe, there is a feel-good vibe in the room. Hilary Nicoll has experience in designing environments that encourage a culture of imagination.

Before founding Albert Drive Studios in Glasgow’s south side, she previously served as an art instructor at HMP’s Shotts Education Unit, Addiction Unit and Special Unit, and at Our Lady and St Patrick’s High School in Dumbarton.

Albert Drive Studios, located in a Victorian mansion, operated from 2010 to 2013 and became an independent studio space for small artistic companies, offering a lively program of art activities, exhibits, and leisure classes, including “Dining at Albert Drive,” a dinner club run by Nicoll with her friend Eta.

An old cottage with a large overgrown garden tended by a botanist, The Retreat’s appeal persuaded Nicoll to travel to Argyll before returning to live in the West End of Glasgow.

Nicoll stresses that the most important thing is the stage.


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