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Best House In Town - Greg McGee

By Vicky Parry | 7th February 2019

Greg and Ails McGee plan a summer of exhibitions with new gallery manager Sophie Austin - Photo by Jeremy Moulton

Greg and Ails McGee plan a summer of exhibitions with new gallery manager Sophie Austin - Photo by Jeremy Moulton

Tower Street’s According to McGee’s eponymous gallerist Greg McGee is set to feature on BBC1’s daily show ‘Best House in Town’ next week.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he laughs. “I’m not one of these people who hate watching themselves on TV.” Greg is one of five judges who travel around York homes. There are four different categories, with four houses per category. The interiors of houses from the outskirts of York to city centre spaces involved taxidermy, centuries old Singaporean doors, glam rock colour schemes and family photos festooned on hallway walls.

The show has already generated a groundswell of social media interest, with ‘The Nosiest Neighbours in York’ being the prevalent take on the proceedings. “Maybe, but there was more to it than just nosiness,” says Greg. “It was a creative experience, and in many ways it wasn’t too different from my day to day experience as a gallery owner. We had to explore the possible reasons behind the interior choices, and we had to dig deeper than just our knee-jerk responses. There was also the synergy in the group that became stronger as the week’s filming went on.”

Joining Greg as judges were Teajuana Café owner Joe Ferraioli, electrician Alex Cowton, Flax and Twine café owner Maureen Scott and History of Art student Sophie Austin. “It was fascinating. Our respective responses were initially so different but quickly became mutually influential in our decision making. Generally, Joe has an eye for potential parties; Alex can spot the functionality or otherwise of a room from half a mile away; Maureen likes to see how clutter and histories reflected the personalities of the homeowners; Sophie has the perception to unpack the details of a successful interior and talk confidently about them quicker than anyone I’ve met.”

It was the meeting with Sophie that Greg sees as one of the legacies of his BBC experience. “As a group, we all plan to stay in touch and meet regularly. Sophie impressed me with her instinctive ability to hone in on details with lightning acuity, and speak with authority on them. The rest of us would be gliding through a house, waxing lyrical about the general vibe, and Sophie would spot half-hidden aspects and prioritise them in a way that brought new energy to the group’s decision making. It was early on in the filming that I realised she’d be great in our gallery, and so now the filming is done we’ve offered her a job as Gallery Manager.”

Sophie Austin - Photo by Jeremy Moulton

Sophie Austin - Photo by Jeremy Moulton

Says Sophie, “This experience through the BBC has further enhanced my passion for interiors. Combining this with my background in Art, studying History of Art at the University of York, enjoying architecture and my personal interest in design and fashion enabled me to judge from cultural and stylistic angle.”

Sophie’s confidence in aesthetics comes in part from her familiarity with brands: "For the past four years, I have had the pleasure of working at RedBrick Mill, the North’s leading destination for interiors. Working at RedBrick, I am constantly surrounded by different brands such as Function Alley, Devoted to, Heals and Made.com exhibiting their latest collections. It was interesting to see how the homeowners have chosen statement pieces from brands, that in my eyes represent a brand. Placed within these homes they do not exuberate the brands overall image, which is an accolade to the homeowners, as they take these pieces to reflect their personal style. This is what I was interested seeing within the homes, as I believe it is a hard task to pull off. This experience overall heightened my awareness of the knowledge that I have concerning brands of interiors. Meeting the McGees has been a bonus, in that it provides me a new path to explore the creative industries.”

With spring and summer bringing with them projects under the gallery’s charitable arm, New Visuality, Greg will be busy elsewhere, leaving gallery co-director Ails McGee at the helm. “Though I’ve not yet seen her on BBC1, I’ve met Sophie a few times here at the gallery, and the energy and authority she brings to curatorial decisions and selling art in innovative ways, means she’ll be an ideal member of the team. This year is our 15th anniversary and we’ve got a lot of big projects coming up. We’re collaborating with Castle Howard in mutual exhibitions. We’re set to launch citywide happenings featuring the paintings of East End Urban Art legend, Dscreet. We’ll be launching the new Cassette Art collection from Pop Artist Horace Panter to coincide with the UK tour of his band, ‘The Specials’. It’s our busiest year yet, but with Sophie as part of the team, I’m confident we’ll take it our stride.”

Greg is similarly insouciant about viewing on BBC1 next week’s 5 part journey through the beautiful houses of York. “It was humbling to be invited into the homes of these rightfully house-proud people. Though they weren’t present while we analysed their interior choices, their open doors and the confidence with which they displayed their lives was inspirational. I’ll be watching with a glass or two of wine per episode remembering a superb experience. York is a great city to work in as a creative and live in as a resident, and I think the BBC have jumped on board at just the right time.”

To find out which York homeowner wins the Best House in Town, tune in next to BBC One next week, Monday to Friday, 3:50pm.

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