In amongst the abundance of excellent cafes in Earlsfield lies La Galleria - the brainchild of Peter Valli to put Earlsfield on the map of the London art scene.
When Earlsfield Talks heard that this March would see the framing shop turn 25 years old (about 9 years younger than the average Earlsfield dweller), we followed the steps of many before: including Judie Dench, Faye Ripley and Orla Kiely, to visit Peter and see first-hand what has made La Galleria such a success.
Peter’s career started rather differently, cutting his teeth in a recording studio in Soho. Although the celeb spotting provided much entertainment - the big egos exposed a side to the film industry that wasn’t so appealing. Soho’s loss turned out to be Earlsfield’s gain.
After a brief stint travelling he returned to London and, following his passion for antique prints, he began selling his purchases at antique fairs across the city. His experiences at the fairs were key to the establishment of La Galleria. As more and more of his weekend customers asked where they could come to regularly view his full range of prints, he knew he needed to find a permanent spot in the right location.
Following a two year spell in Esher, the opportunity came to move to a more central location…
Enter Earlsfield! In 1993, the average age of Earlsfield was between 40-50, and this was the exactly the captive demographic for the antique prints he had mastered sourcing.
By providing framing in addition to the sale of prints, Peter was able to keep his eye on upcoming trends and the range of prints other galleries were selling. This keyhole into the wider market showed him a glimpse of the Young British Artists’ revolution. With Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst colouring the walls of art lovers, the modern art scene became exciting for Peter to follow. His handle on the modern upcoming artists, combined with the now younger demographic of locals moving to Earlsfield, was a recipe for success.
‘If I started La Galleria from scratch, I would still be setting up in Earlsfield- no question’ Peter told us.
Speaking to Peter was fascinating- from hearing examples of the most unique framing requests such as burnt toast and dead exotic insects, to controlling his nerves when framing a £40k Andy Warhol piece. His 25 years experience in framing artworks leaves him with an impressive bank of knowledge of the art world.
In a world of fake news, we asked Peter about fake art. ‘More common than counterfeit pieces, are customers bringing in prints or art for framing that are worth much more than they realise. We have had pieces by Banksy, and even Gainsborough worth a huge amount of money bought in by customers who had no idea of the value of their piece. It’s a great feeling when you can tell them.’
With a two year old daughter and an older son, Peter hopes that his family will share not only his love of art, but also red Bordeaux, which is his other passion. He will tell them exactly what he tells all his customers ‘don’t buy solely for investment, buy because you love the piece…there is nothing worse than selling a print knowing it will sit hidden in a drawer for the following years.’
For now, his children’s drawings also get the Rolls Royce framing service. ‘Quality of framing is paramount to the presentation and maintenance of art. We do the framing here ourselves, so we know each piece of art is being cared for in the best way.’ He remembers his customers so well that he once had a man come into his shop to try and sell a great piece of art - a bargain in truth, except for the fact that Peter had framed it himself for one of his customers years before and knew it had been stolen since.
The new younger customer base in Earlsfield is requiring fresh skills and led Peter to modernise his collection. Recently La Galleria employed Alex, his new assistant - 'she has an unbelievable eye for art, and is helping to modernise our engagement online with social media’. We were pleased to meet Alex during the interview with La Galleria, and true to Peter’s word she even gave Earlsfield Talks some helpful tips!
With La Galleria you are getting more than a framing or print shop, it offers quality assured, excellent customer service and a knowledgable team. Peter mentioned he would like to expand his business but ‘with business rates so high in Earlsfield it’s hard to imagine that would be possible. We are, however, getting busier and busier producing more frames and selling more prints so moving to bigger premises could well be on the cards…remaining in Earlsfield of course…!’
Earlsfield Talks wholeheartedly congratulates Peter and La Galleria on their 25 year anniversary- we hope the coming years are as successful and exciting as the last.