We went to Hancock Gallery’s Fine Art, Diamonds and Fizz event at boutique jewellers Reid & Sons, and this is what happened
This was always going to be special…
‘Call me anything but ordinary’.
That was the adage emblazoned on the Connor Brothers’ artwork decorating the invitation we received from Hancock Gallery a couple of weeks ago. (Look at us, recognising our contemporary artists!). And though we didn’t know it yet, anything but ordinary was certainly what Fine Art, Diamonds and Fizz promised…
We’d been assured that the evening was to be the first of many culturally-centred events in Hancock Gallery’s pipeline, and the team at Newcastle’s exceptional fine art gallery were obviously keen to start with a bang – teaming up with the city’s equally as illustrious boutique jewellers, Reid & Sons, to deliver an exclusive evening of splendour, opulence and all-out indulgence. All this, served with characteristically North East charm.
The aim of the event? To give us the opportunity to explore the works of some of the world’s leading contemporary artists – Elizabeth Power, David Shrigley and Mark Demsteader, to name a few – set against the backdrop of Reid & Sons’ sensational collection of diamonds. In doing so, we could consider how the artworks’ displacement from the gallery influenced the impact they made on their audience, while observing how the jewellery’s brilliance could be exaggerated by the art alongside it. All this while enjoying a glass (or four) of fizz and a bit of a natter. What’s not to love, right?
Not that the hospitability element was all about Champagne. Master distillers Hepple Spirits were also on hand to ensure a healthy variety of refreshment was had by all, their trusty collection of gin, vodka and signature cocktails in tow. And a sumptuous banquet by renowned culinarians Le Raaj ensured that our appetites were not to affect our artistic appreciation of our surroundings by any means.
But what we came away with that September evening was more than a cracking night out under our belts. And that’s not to say it wasn’t. But what we experienced was an inclusive – yet uber-luxurious – culturally-minded gathering of creatives, all of whom are living, working and imagining right here in the North East. It was an evening for connecting – which, after a global pandemic, was very much welcomed – and for intellectual stimulation, as much as it was a chance for us to live the, well, the high life for a night. When we walked out of Reid & Sons later that evening, we were leaving with our minds, as well as our spirits, feeling invigorated.
Not that we were all that surprised. We’re quickly learning that this is just what to expect from Hancock Gallery. The Jesmond-based gallery is far more than just a place to view art, although it’s an exceptional one at that – having made a home for some of the world’s most innovative contemporary painters, mixed-media artists and sculptors in the four-storey Georgian townhouse is calls its own, alongside 20th century masters such as LS Lowry, (who’s most seminal works are the stars of their next private viewing). But more than this, Hancock Gallery have very quickly become a cultural hub within the city. Whether popping in for a coffee and an explore, or fulfilling an appointment you’ve made with their team of specialist art advisors to discuss investing in art on a larger scale, at Hancock Gallery you’ll find a space for reflection and for imagination; for exploration, innovation and liberation.
What’s more, the team here are doing something which no other art gallery in the North East, and only a few outside of London, are: they’re carving out a space within the region’s cultural landscape, with the distinct purpose of welcoming people inside. And no, not just art critics and aristocrats. People. Normal people, like us. People who, perhaps, wouldn’t have thought they’d ever be in the same room as the work of one of Britain’s most popular artists, or diamonds which once decorated the neck of Grace Kelly.
Yes, Hancock Gallery’s bread and butter lies in the heart of art. In bringing the world-class to a region that often feels forgotten about on a national scale, and making that calibre of culture not only accessible but also relatable. The kind of art that we would want in our homes and, more importantly, that we could actually have in our homes. Having familiarised ourselves with Hancock Gallery a fair bit over the last few months, we had a rough idea of what we could expect from their end of the bargain at Fine Art, Diamonds and Fizz. But Reid & Sons? Now this was a brand we admit we knew far less about. And we should know plenty, really – it being one of Newcastle’s oldest businesses and all.
Now you do know who we mean. If you’ve lived in Newcastle for six months or more, you’ve probably walked past their store front, on average, around a million times. Their decorative gold signwriting and black Georgian clock are about as quietly iconic in these parts as Earl Grey. And yet, not that many of us often venture inside.
We’re guilty ourselves. Sure enough, as soon as we stepped into the Fine Art, Diamonds and Fizz event, we started kicking ourselves for the opportunities we’d missed to explore this gem in Newcastle’s crown. ‘Crown’ is the appropriate word, too. Did you know Reid & Sons hold a Royal Warrant? No, neither did we. Technically, the warrant belongs to Mappin & Webb, the renowned silversmiths which launched within Reid & Sons in 2016. But the Newcastle jeweller has also worked for the royal family in its own right throughout its 243-year history.
As well as crafting jewels for the Her Majesty the Queen and co., Reid & Sons are also responsible for some of the most exquisite diamonds seen on stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, such as Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly – as we could see for ourselves at Fine Art, Diamonds and Fizz. The back wall of the boutique is decorated with famous portraits depicting all manner of celebrities adorned with diamonds, underneath which the real-life necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings and brooches lie behind glass cases, gently simmering with opulence and sophistication.
Oh, and before we forget, Reid & Sons also operate the largest distribution network for Rolex, Omega, TAG Heuer and other reputable watch brands, as one of only 16 stores in the UK which are an official Watches of Switzerland outpost. They were actually the UK’s first appointed stockist of Rolex watches back in 1919. No biggie, though.
It’s a wonder the team at Reid & Sons have time to turn around, with the wealth of luxury clients on their books, let alone host pioneering events like Fine Art, Diamonds and Fizz. But as the evening wore on and we were introduced to the team at Newcastle’s premier jewellers, we found that time – even more so than timepieces – is where their unique offering lies.
It was abundantly clear that the Reid & Sons team couldn’t do enough for us: be it talking us through their collections, pointing us in the right direction for the nearest facilities, or filling our glasses with more fizz (only a little dangerous). And we could see that this wasn’t an act put on for the event, either. There’s an inherent attention to the needs, wants and imaginations of their patrons that is ingrained in the team here, delivered with care, honesty and – what us North Easterners love more than all else – humour. There’s a relatability that, even if we hadn’t had a glass of Champagne in our hand at all times, would’ve instantly put us at ease. And for perhaps the first time in our lives, we could start to imagine ourselves coming to Reid & Sons with the intention of shopping – and feeling comfortable. Confident. Like we belong.
In the same way as Hancock Gallery, it was that overarching feeling of being listened to, cared about and communicated with honestly that allowed us to enter into the world of Reid & Sons wholeheartedly, without self-consciousness or embarrassment. A world which, only a few hours earlier, couldn’t have seemed further out of reach. And so, the two brands proved the perfect partnership for an evening of relatable, cultural opulence (a phrase we didn’t believe existed, either). One which is destined to be the flagship for many more successful events in our region.
That’s something we’re confident in. Because the success of the evening really lay in its offer of escape; Fine Art, Diamonds and Fizz was an opportunity to escape the office, the everyday and to escape our own limitations. Here at HLN, we know perhaps better than most how much creative, cultural and industrial talent we have overflowing from the North East right now. Fine Art, Diamonds and Fizz was an opportunity for this talent to come together: to talk brushstrokes, bracelets and everything in between. Because that’s the real power of art, isn’t it? It’s ability to elicit subjectivity, opinion and conjecture. Art heralds in all manner of personalities and, in doing so, challenges expectations. And it’s only when we break through the barriers of expectation that we find freedom.