Café culture has taken a small step forward with the opening of Dulwich Village’s newest art gallery. Au Ciel, the French café and chocolatier, has created the display space on the first floor of the premises in Calton Avenue. A low-key opening just before Christmas saw miniatures by 30 artists, including Lucy Duke, Louise Ward and Alexander Young exhibited. It was curated by Dulwich-based Louis Blondiau, the café’s artist-in-residence.

The current exhibition is of Blondiau’s own larger canvases and the space will feature different artists and disciplines every couple of months, including sculpture, photography, and installations. Occasional musical events, plus poetry, music and drama are also planned.

Blondiau, who studied at the Art School of Braine l’Alleud, Belgium, says: “Auciel has been created mostly for local and London artists. As an artist, I know how difficult it can be for artists to show their work. ‘So when I found the opportunity to use the walls of the Au Ciel cafe, I thought this would be good for me, but also for the other artists. For the artists, it is an attractive, risk-free alternative to fees and rents; their only cost is a commission on sales. For that reason, I expect competition to display will be intense, which will help raise the gallery’s profile. We will try to organise an opening for each exhibition, for the community to meet and exchange ideas.
We would particularly welcome participants in the May’s Dulwich Open House event to contact us; our walls are available for them to show one piece of their work.’

Roger Wilkinson, from Au Ciel, adds: “We have always hosted paintings by Dulwich artists and I was delighted when Louis suggested creating a gallery space above the café. The creative community in and around Dulwich will guarantee that the displays remain fresh and vibrant. Perhaps, we can help build a number of reputations.
The gallery is a small, but intimate, space and we hope it will be put to many imaginative uses.’

Auciel Gallery, at Au Ciel, 1a Calton Avenue, SE21 7DE, open Monday to Friday, 8am-6pm; weekends from 9am to 6pm. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;