Contemporary Painting: Barnes + Barnes

By Greg McGee

Contemporary Painting: Barnes + Barnes

After 17 years as a contemporary gallery, According to McGee is set to close its Tower Street doors in September. Husband and wife and business duo Ails and Greg McGee are looking forward to the next stage but in the meantime they are, according to Greg, ‘ready to go out with an incendiary confetti of contemporary collectibles.’

Ails McGee with a collection of Richard Barnes' paintings

“Every chapter comes to an end,” says Ails, “And before we launch Part Two, we thought let’s finish our tenure at Tower Street by going full circle. We started back in 2005 with a Richard Barnes show, and I had just finished teaching his daughter Chantal Barnes as an A-Level student at Huntington School. Chantal is now an internationally sought after artist and has work appearing in Vogue magazine and Richard has retired from teaching at Bootham School and is now a full time painter.” 


Richard Barnes' idiosyncratic contemporary depictions of York

“This is a victory lap for us,” says Greg, “We are in many ways going back to our source with Richard’s York cityscapes, but the art scene in York has changed so much, and the paintings of both Barneses are now so collectible, that though we’re tipping the hat to our first exhibition we are much more excited about the here and now. The York that Richard paints feels very contemporary, very now, and the idiosyncratic vigour with which Chantal pushes paint around is a wholly new visual idea.”

The new collection of paintings from Chantal Barnes has been keenly anticipated by UK collectors

Greg looks back fondly, “Richard really helped galvanise our business plan back in 2005, which was at that point a general desire to exhibit exciting art. He helped distill that down into an irreducible manifesto.

Go primarily for paintings, paintings which are instantly recognisable as from the McGee stable. Grab the attention of passers by, paint the gallery front yellow, which, although a Choir of Vision inception, had its roots in the initial vision Richard helped us shape. Since then we’ve exhibited CBE Elaine Thomas, Dave Pearson, ska legend Horace Panter of the Specials. We’ve had exhibitions officially opened by Sir Ian Botham when we launched art from Dubai celebrity artist Jim Wheat, 1960s painter and friend of The Beatles Doug Binder has had solo shows here. It’s been a wild and fulfilling ride here opposite York’s most recognisable landmark but the time has come to leave the building, and we’re doing it in style with ‘Barnes + Barnes’. 

“‘Contemporary Painting: Barnes + Barnes’ straddles our past as gallerists but also looks forward. As an exhibition, it transcends this building, and so we’ll be ready to run it again in the future. Where that will be, we can’t yet say, but that unpredictability, with the liberty and excitement that come with it, was the reason we got into running an art gallery in the first place. This exhibition reflects that. As soon as Chapter II emerges over the horizon, we’ll let you know.”

Ails and Greg McGee are preparing the next chapter in the evolution of the According to McGee gallery 

‘Contemporary Painting: Barnes + Barnes’ runs from Saturday July 23rd to Sunday 25th September 2022. For more information, see

Group Pic: Richard Barnes delivers the new collections to the McGee curatorial team, Nell Bannister and Rhys Davies Brackett
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