Breaking barriers at ‘hidden gem’ Harrogate home art gallery


Last updated Oct 16, 2021
Sarah Collier has an expert eye for art.

With an expert eye for beautiful pieces, a portfolio of exciting artists and a lovely Harrogate home to pull it all together, this hidden gem of a gallery is breaking down barriers in the art world.

Sarah Collier set up Silson Contemporary in October 2016. Five years later, on a dull, grey day, a beaming Sarah opens the door and her bright, colourful space has immediate impact.

At first it took a big advertising effort to get artists and potential buyers through the door. But these days things are different: people are queuing up to get a glimpse at Sarah’s latest finds.

A home and an art gallery in one.

What started off in the dining room has spread to the living room and reception area. Some pieces are even making their way up the stairs at Silson Contemporary, which can be found on Harlow Oval.

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While Sarah enjoys working from home, it does mean that she has to always keep the space spotless. It also means that she has to love the pieces she exhibits because she lives with them.

It’s not just paintings at Silson Contemporary.

“It was just a little seed in my head. I wanted to set up a gallery and we had this beautiful room with big bay windows, high ceilings, hanging rails. It just went from there.

“People love coming in and seeing art in the home because that is where they are going to put it. This really gives people ideas about how they can display their art.

“The gallery does seem to be a bit more recognised now. I love how the business has grown. We are hidden so word of mouth has been really important.”

The entrance hall is covered from ceiling to floor in art.

There’s a common perception that art is just for people who have a lot of money. That is something that Sarah has been trying to push back against since she started.

“I think that’s a myth that has been perpetuated by the art world because it suits them. But it’s absolute rubbish.

“When I have been to galleries sometimes the staff look you up and down and if they don’t think you are rich they are not interested.

“Art is for everybody, absolutely everybody. I have work here that is expensive and I have work is that is inexpensive.”

Sarah studied art but when she was young she decided not to follow that interest.

However, when she was a radiographer at Harrogate District Hospital she decided to take up an MA in art history. That was the push she needed to get into the art industry and open her own gallery.

She says it was the “best decision she has ever made”. So as someone who loves art, would she ever sell her own pieces?

The artists are from all over the UK.

“No I am rubbish. I love the academic side and I love art but I overthink. All the artists I speak to encourage me but I can’t.

“Though I think that makes me appreciate what these artists do more. How can they know when to stop? How can they know that one extra line makes something special? It’s inspiring.”

Silson Contemporary has just opened an autumn and winter show, which runs until December 23. The gallery is open by appointment only on Fridays and Saturdays.

This is part of the Stray Ferret’s ‘hidden gem’ series. We are trying to highlight small independent businesses. They need to be tucked away but growing in popularity with an eye-catching and unique product or approach. Send us an email with your nominations.

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