One of the many attributes of the late Paul Arden (who died in 2008) was his sheer good taste when it came to photography. Although this principally manifested itself in the print campaigns he commissioned, Arden was also a keen collector of photography and in later life curated his own Arden and Anstruther Gallery in West Sussex.
Until July 14, the Augustus Brandt Gallery in Petworth, West Sussex, is staging an exhibition of prints from four of Arden’s favourite photographers, Brian Griffin, Bruce Rae, Andrew Holligan and Gerry Castle.
Arden’s widow Toni, and some of the photographers, have shared the stories behind how these images came into Arden’s life.
The Guardian names Brian Griffin its Photographer of the Decade in the 1980s. Some of his most memorable images were for bands, such as Spandau Ballet, Ultravox and, shown above, (in ‘Broken Frame’) Depeche Mode.
Griffin recalls meeting Paul Arden for lunch. “It was 1980 when I first met and worked with Paul Arden, he was then the creative director of Saatchi and Saatchi. In the early 80s nouvelle cuisine was all the rage, wonderful small art pieces fit for a gallery would confront you on your plate in London’s top fashionable restaurants. One day I sat opposite Paul when the waiter brought him his dish. Paul looked down at it then excitedly spread out his arms and exclaimed ‘Take it away, take it away it’s too beautiful to eat!’”
Toni Arden says: “In the mid 1980s a box of photographs was left in reception at Saatchi and Saatchi for my husband, Paul. No name, no phone number, just the box of beautiful flower prints. My husband treasured this box and always wondered who had left them. In 2004 we opened a photographic gallery in Petworth and a man from the Photographic Society in Midhurst called in and asked Paul to give a talk to the society. On entering the flat in Midhurst where the talk was to take place he saw an image on the wall that he recognised as the work of the photographer who had left him the box of photographs many years before. The rest is history. Bruce Rae and his wife Anni became and remain solid friends.”
It’s easy to see the appeal of Holligan’s work to an art director like Arden, in particular his photographs of the white washed windows of closed-down shops, blown–up in scale to become Abstract Impressionist works in their own right.
Though Castle spent most of his working life as chief technician at first the National Heart Hospital and later at heart surgeon Sir Magdi Jacoub’s private clinic, in an earlier life he had produced a remarkable group of photographs of Liverpool in the 50s and 60s. “These precious images emerged from Gerry’s garden shed in 2005 and were the focus of a show at Arden and Anstruther Gallery in 2006,” Toni Arden remembers. “Bleak streets offer a counterpoint of children playing in front of their homes and in bombed-out buildings. The black and white imagery is a powerful evocation of a city still reeling from the war, but whose people’s faces tell of the indomitable spirit of Liverpudlians.”
Paul Arden was the Creative Director of Saatchi & Saatchi when the agency was at the height of its creative powers, working on campaigns for Silk Cut, The Independent and British Airways among many others. He went on to become a hugely successful author with ‘It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be’ (Phaidon) and ‘Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite’ (Penguin).
The Paul Arden show is at the Augustus Brandt Gallery, Petworth, West Sussex, until July 14. Prints are for sale, prices range from £800 to £5,000.