THE PLAZA was an exhibition curated by William Dean and hosted by Mostyn Gallery in Llandudno from 23rd September until 16th October, with work featuring by the likes of Lance Mountain, Lawrence Weiner, Ryan Gander, Steve Olson, Kevin Banks and Linda O’Neill. We got some words from William Dean on how the exhibition came about and what its aims were, as well as a gallery of photographs courtesy of Ash Wilson featuring Charlie Birch, John-Michael Fisher and Ash himself.
“The project aimed to act as a central meeting point between skate culture and the contemporary arts, ultimately allowing the arts audience to be immersed in skate culture and vice versa. It started with the question “How do we get young people into galleries?” which resulted in the idea of skateboarding in a gallery – breaking the ‘look but don’t touch’ feeling which museums and galleries are associated with. This resulted in one of the exhibition highlights, the skateable section; a brand new work of contemporary art by New York-based Lawrence Weiner, who made a piece specifically for people to skate on. This section included iconic gallery objects (plinths, art crates etc.) that were modified to be skated by the viewing public, alongside a series of wooden banks.
During my research for this project I stumbled across the surprisingly rich skate history of Llandudno. The town was once home to the iconic ‘Soup Bowl’ which was visited by the likes of Shogo Kubo in 1979 and a young Geoff Rowley in 1992. This history is recognised in the exhibition through a piece by legendary skater Lance Mountain, which is his interpretation of an iconic Shogo Kubo image, as well as a series of photos taken by Liverpool photographer Kevin Banks of Geoff Rowley and friends on a trip to Llandudno in 1992. One of the images (Geoff nose bumping a trolley) has since been used for a Vans ad campaign which culminated in a billboard series in New York.
After discovering this rich history I decided to post an open call to the public for photos, videos, and stories of the iconic park. It was the largest social media response in the gallery’s history and led to one of the main pieces in the exhibition. The rear wall of the show features a series of photos taken by a then local girl, Linda O’Neill, who did not know any of the people in the photographs at the time of being taken. Over the three week period of THE PLAZA being open four of the six guys photographed have visited the show and had many a conversation about the good old days.
One conversation that came out of the exhibition is that Llandudno needs a new concrete skatepark (the Soup Bowl is now a coach park), so this is being used as a starting point to try and make something happen. Alongside this a conversation emerged about the nearby Rhyl council trying to destroy the town’s skatepark without plans for a new one, which resulted in an event at Rhyl Skatepark on the 23rd of October to help save it.
The exhibition has been a moment in history for a very formal, traditional gallery. It took a lot of persuasion and insurance checks but in the end we made it happen. For some people their first time in a gallery was skating it, so I will be intrigued to see how they now look at galleries.”