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Macclesfield based artist Ben Kelly was born in central Manchester in 1974. He is now nothing short of a phenomenon. Each exhibition he’s held has sold out before opening. Subsequently his main dealers have waiting lists running into three figures. No sooner is a painting finished than it finds a home.
Collectors desperate for his work are paying more than double to buy his paintings on the secondary market.
He trained at London’s renowned Central St Martins College. Despite his great success as an artist he still works as a senior art lecturer at a Midlands’ university. This despite the pleas of his dealers that he should paint full-time.
In 2006 his painting The Final Whistle beat over 800 entrants. To win the prestigious Football Painting in Art Prize and £15,000 in prize money. The previous winner of this competition was L.S. Lowry in 1953 with his iconic painting Going to the Match. This set a new work record for a Lowry painting when it was bought by the PFA in 1999 for £1.9 million.
Ben Kelly is a fanatical Manchester City supporter, and he was artist in residence during the 2007/2008 season. During this period he produced a series of 30 paintings depicting a year in the life of the club at their home ground. A dream job. The completed works were shown in his Painting the Blues exhibition held at the club’s museum in February 2009. A painting from this period was recently purchased by the National Football Museum, his first sale to a public collection.
His quirky figurative paintings always carry a narrative and quite often feature people, dogs and horses and gatherings of ordinary life. But to suggest they are simple paintings is to overlook his great technical skill, a fact recognised by his fellow artists.
Ben’s paintings are essentially about light and its play on everyday scenes. The way in which he fractures light in a complex series of paint layers is the defining and recognisable mark of his work. His oils are amongst the most technically accomplished of any artist practicing in Britain today.
Ben’s 2011 show entitled Looters and Other Stories sold out weeks before its official opening and shows that the artist is not afraid to tackle subjects that others might shy away from. This extraordinary series of paintings examined the Manchester City Centre riots in 2011, deftly and with great humour. He seemed to see through the disorder to recognise that the riot was little more than one of the gatherings that he has spent much of his career depicting.
His largest one man show to date was held at Clark Art Gallery in Hale in September 2014. The 95 works in the show sold out a month before the opening making it the fastest selling show ever held in the gallery. There is now a waiting list for this artist’s work.
Ben Kelly has also exhibited at the Lowry Centre, the Lady Lever Art Gallery, The National Football Museum and the University of Salford. He is in numerous private collections including that of the Turner Prize winning artist Mark Wallinger and interior designer David Carter. He is also in the collection of the National Football Museum.