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After graduating in 2008, Eleni Duke hopped from one internship to another in the hope of finding that dream job in the art world. Four years on she may have found it as her own boss, defying the odds by running a successful gallery just off Old Street.

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Curious Duke Gallery in Whitecross Street, Finsbury, celebrates its first birthday this month after establishing itself as an art gallery with a difference.

Aiming to offer affordable artwork that is both high quality and unique, Eleni says she has spotted a gap in the market.

Explaining her success, she said: “You don’t have to worry about seeing the artwork on your wall decorating your friend’s flat as well. It’s a chance to have something different for the price of a night out.”

In opening the gallery, the history and philosophy of art graduate also wanted to combat the stereotypical library-style atmosphere at many other galleries.

She said: “It’s a fun and accessible place where people can avoid the often intimidating atmosphere of other galleries.”

The anniversary celebration, starting on September 20, is a far cry from the gallery’s humble beginnings.

Eleni’s savings were not enough to keep the gallery running during tough economic times, so she had to work part-time at a pharmacy to keep it afloat.

Funding was not the only challenge, as the 25-year-old explained: “The art world can be very elitist and being so young it was hard to convince people that this was the right way to go.”

Battling other peoples’ doubts, however, was nothing compared to difficulties she had faced before. Having spent years working for free and having odd jobs, she was not going to give in easily.

Now the gallery can boast a growing fan club and is near enough running itself financially, with Eleni now cutting down work at the pharmacy from three days to two hours.

She has attracted emerging artists such as Nathan Bowen. Nathan, 25, has described her as a “role model”.

The gallery’s rise has been recognised by the art community, having been awarded stands at competitive art fairs and her business continues to grow with Hoxton Hotel in Shoreditch commissioning her to curate their living spaces.

Curious Duke Gallery’s First Birthday will be exhibiting from September 20 to October 13 and will include the opportunity to watch live wall art by Andrea Tyrimos and a live silk worm installation piece by Joanna Rose Tidey.

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