Ben Cotton: ‘The gallery was run from my spare bedroom, with a P.O. Box in Clerkenwell to sound more credible’

PUBLISHED: 12:08 04 December 2019 | UPDATED: 12:08 04 December 2019

Ben Cotton (right) with artist Tim Fishlock at the new-look Hang-Up Gallery. Picture: Chuck Noble.

Ben Cotton (right) with artist Tim Fishlock at the new-look Hang-Up Gallery. Picture: Chuck Noble.


After a decade in Dalston, an art gallery known for its limited edition Banksy pedigree has opened a much larger space next to Regent’s Canal.

Hang-Up Gallery's launch event was held last week. Picture: Chuck Noble.Hang-Up Gallery's launch event was held last week. Picture: Chuck Noble.

Ben Cotton was working in publishing when he decided to make a fairly drastic career change. The year was 2008, and out of his passion for collecting limited edition artwork - Banksy pieces, especially - came his idea for Hang-Up Gallery.

At first, his vision for this new venture had its doubters. "It was before selling art online was a thing," he writes in a recent blog post. "Everyone thought I was pretty insane to even consider it as an option and most thought it was not going to work. The 'gallery' was run from my spare bedroom with a P.O. Box in Clerkenwell to try and make it sound more credible."

Eleven years, 40 exhibitions and 6,000 artwork sales later, and you might argue that Hang-Up Gallery's founder had Cotton-ed on to something (sorry).

After 10 years in Dalston, Hang-Up has completed a switch to a purpose-built new site in Hoxton. It's here, perched beside Regent's Canal, that Cotton and his team of six hope to further the gallery's international reputation for trading Banksy works and to give more emerging talents their first big break.

The gallery's new site will feature much larger-scale shows. Picture: Chuck Noble.The gallery's new site will feature much larger-scale shows. Picture: Chuck Noble.

Cotton says that his proudest achievement in Dalston "is probably the quality of the exhibitions that we put on. We did a lot of inaugural shows for artists who have gone on to become quite big names, like the Connor Brothers. We had their first ever show and now they are collected worldwide."

Now the move to this 2,000 sq ft space is complete, Cotton says there's freedom for Hang-Up to stage much larger scale events. "We are increasingly focused on showing original works and paintings, both in secondary and primary markets," he says. "And now we have a bigger space, for bigger shows."

The first of which - to launch the new-look gallery - opened on November 29 and will continue until January 25. The exhibition features work from Banksy, KAWS, Harland Miller, The Connor Brothers and more.

Although there are a number of well-respected artists on their books, Hang-Up prides itself on its reputation for dealing works from one of the most famous incognito artists in the world.

Hang-Up Gallery is located next to Regent's Canal. Picture: Supplied.Hang-Up Gallery is located next to Regent's Canal. Picture: Supplied.

"The piece everybody likes is the Girl with the Balloon, which is synonymous with Banksy," adds Cotton. "We're lucky to have had the opportunity to show the original and a print a couple of times." The founder wants to remain "heavily involved in that market" as Hang-Up settles in to its new digs.

Hang-Up Gallery will be appointment-only for potential art collectors - so that they "get more time, someone can show them around, helping them to build their art collection," - but will be open for public perusal, too. "It's in no way elitist," explains Cotton, "we're very much open to all."

Originally from Nottingham but a native of east London for close to 20 years now, Cotton lives in Stoke Newington and his first flat in the capital was about three minutes away from the site of his new gallery.

The whole process of moving Hang-Up has taken around two years but now it's time to focus on the potential of this new site.

"We've got a really exciting exhibition programme for next year, with three or four quite major shows in 2020. [These are] to continue to develop the brand, with new artists we're going to be working with and helping the careers of one's we already work with.

"We look for works that aren't mainstream: contemporary artwork that feels fresh, exciting and dynamic, from people with a genuine vision and good ideas."

Hang-Up Gallery, 10d Branch Place, Regent's Canal, N1 5PH. More details here.

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