This beautiful space reflects and gives back to nature, while also promoting local talent at its best, writes Shirley le Guern.
The Boucher Legacy’s Art for Conservation auction, which raised more than R500 000 in March this year, has gone a long way to putting the little Lions River-based Platform Gallery on the map.
Glen du Preez, who opened the gallery with his wife Molly Malloy in 2018, says that the auction provided an important opportunity for artists whose work hangs in the gallery to give something back to the source of their inspiration.
The eclectic collection – which includes everything from pencil sketches to landscapes, oils and watercolours – reflects nature. The Platform Gallery also has one of the largest collections of sculptures for sale in South Africa – with over 80 works in bronze, stone, wood, and other natural materials from well-known artists such as Llewellyn Davies, Sarah Richards, Sma Shabalala, Carl Roberts and Michael Mawdsley.
Money raised through the auction will fund collaring of African wild dogs in the Kruger Park, pangolin rehabilitation, development of high-tech tracking technology for endangered mammals and ongoing monitoring and protection of rhinos.
It also achieved what Glen and Molly set out to do when they opened the gallery – promote local talent.
“Fundamentally, a lot of what we have been doing is to support local people. A lot of their art is world-class, yet these people are so humble,” he says.
This not only means, quite literally, providing a platform for established local artists to sell their work but also to both discover and help refine the work of newcomers to suit a growing body of art lovers who follow the gallery online and in person.
One such artist is Luke Falconer, who recently sold his final limited edition bronze sculpture of a kingfisher. Glen actually owns the first edition. “He can now break the mould. It is amazing for a young artist to sell through an edition and know that he is on the right path. For us, it is so rewarding to be part of these stories. We are now working with him to produce the biggest sculpture that we’ve done to date,” says Glen.
Looking back to the earliest days of The Platform Gallery, du Preez recalls Mawdsley sculpting on one side of the gallery space while workmen were welding in the other.
The gallery has an interesting story. Glen studied engineering at university but headed off to sail professionally before completing his degree. When he returned to the Midlands, he wasn’t keen to join the family beef farming business. Instead, he began selling Nguni hides that were a by-product.
He started with a few hides draped over the fence of collectibles shop Treasures and Trash – which is located diagonally across the R103 from what was a dilapidated railway shed at the Lions River Station. Today this business, The Nguni Guy, is one of the largest hide sales companies in the country.
Glen and Molly spent a few months finding the owner of the shed and even longer negotiating a lease with Transnet.
A massive and distinctive spherical metal sculpture by artist Brendon Edwards in front of the gallery together with the rattle of passing trains speaks to the evolving complex’s railway roots as well as its essential industrial vibe.
In addition to the art shop, there is also a space for The Nguni Guy as well as furniture and accessories designed by the couple.
An eatery and coffee bar, known as The Local, occupies a container between the two spaces – together with the skeleton of an old double-decker bus which is about to be transformed into another retail space.
In addition to the gallery, Glen and Molly also develop menus and source fresh ingredients for the restaurant from neighbouring farmers. The coffee beans are locally roasted.
Now that Covid is essentially over, The Platform Gallery will also host events – such as the art auction and music evenings with artists such as Guy Buttery. This Glen believes will lure more overnighters to the Midlands.
“Retail is tough. You work weekends, you put all of your energy into the people who come through the door. So all of us sacrifice a bit of our social lives, but it is things like this that give us purpose,” says Glen.
FOR MORE INFO: Contact Glen on 065 275 0935.