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SPOTLIGHT ON... Spray Gallery

We chat to Sam Farlow about his newly-opened gallery dedicated to French street art - a first for Henley.

Tell us a little about your work and your background. 

I’ve just opened an art gallery on Friday Street in Henley! It’s a funky gallery, and the art is all created by street artists based in Montpellier, southern France. It's a real privilege to bring this artwork to the UK for the first time in the artists’ careers, but especially to my home turf here in Henley. The fact that I’m local (in Nettlebed) is why I chose Henley, and there’s also nothing like it here! I studied French at University and studied in Montpellier, where I met these shape-shifting artists. 

I took my passion for street art to a Masters in Art Curation. I undertook an internship in a leading gallery and also held an exhibition showcasing art by a Montpellier artist who Spray Gallery now represents. Before I created Spray Gallery, I took my gallery plans to The Prince’s Trust (soon to become The King’s Trust) and I received expert business mentorship by the organisation.

What made you decide to start your creative business?

During my time in Montpellier, I became so impassioned by all the street art. The walls were adorned with colour, stories and traces of talented artists. The city’s architecture was enhanced by the art and I managed to meet the artists behind the incredible creations. 

The artists would always leave their tag so it was never hard to find them, or work out where they’re going to be next - painting in broad daylight is accepted in Montpellier and the city has become known as a ‘mini-capital’ for street art.

Through meeting the artists, I realised that there is a real community in Montpellier and that the Metropole once condemned the artists for their work, but now celebrates and supports them. These artists are paid to carry out major-scale projects, or paint in hotels, bars, shopping centres, the train station, the hospital etc..

I was so inspired when I listened to the artists’ stories and now I want to bring their stories to the UK and show off their raw, real-deal talent.

Works by: Salamech, Little Lewis, Salamech

How do you select the artists and work to show?

The artists all caught my attention on the streets of Montpellier. It’s a small, carefully curated, selection of 7 artists. I aim to build a thriving collective of artists who all have a ’street-to-studio’ story. The gallery aims to give each artist equal attention and limelight. I select artists based on whether their work on the street has caught my eye, but also having a strong rapport with these artists is paramount.

Describe your typical working day 

No two days are the same! One minute, I’m creating content for the gallery’s social media account, the next minute I’m moving art, writing a piece for the website, filling in the art inventory, packing art, meeting visitors and just enjoying myself in the gallery amongst the art.

What has been the biggest highlight and biggest challenge to date?

Biggest highlight is undoubtedly the Opening night on Friday Street in May. Lots of people came to welcome the gallery and celebrate the artists’ work. It’s so lovely that everyone has been so welcoming and friendly and the Friday Street residents have been incredibly supportive. Actually, the whole of Henley has been so supportive!

The gallery has only been open for three weeks and the biggest challenge has been judging the right moment to make a radical change in the gallery, like moving a piece or selecting the window piece. I aim to keep things rolling, and I have to go back to Montpellier because the art is selling fast. Win-win! 

The Friday Street residents have been incredibly supportive. Actually, the whole of Henley has been so supportive!

Best nugget of wisdom you can share with your fellow Creative Ducks?

Patience is the key element that allowed me to start the gallery and run with it. Patience is key, but judging the right moment to pounce is also key. That’s what I’ve learned throughout the process of creating relations with artists, planning, decorating and running the space.

It’s an evolving game, just like the street art game; ever-changing and fast-paced. You’ve just got to be streetwise!

Where can we find out more? 

You can check out Spray Gallery’s updates and preview some of the art on Instagram @spraygalleryuk or the website

More importantly, come into the gallery Wednesday-Sunday on Friday Street!

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