Grafitti goes from the streets to Mill Lane gallery

Revered tattooist and artist Dan Gold and Abby Wells have set up something quite different in West Hampstead

In the run up to the opening of their new art gallery and tattoo studio on Mill Lane, West Hampstead, rumours were spreading about just what Dan Gold and Abby Wells were up to.

“There were lots of whispers, some people knew it would be an art gallery and a tattoo studio, but we didn’t really make a big deal of it until the night before we opened. In the past tattooists have had to really hide what they were doing because councils would not let them premises. We didn’t have that problem, thankfully” says Wells.

With their three-month old Monsters of Art Gallery, the pair were taking a risk. A showcase for upcoming and established graffiti artists and a studio for a renowned tattooist (Dan Gold has made waves with his work elsewhere, including being a fixture of TVs London Ink for two years)- there’s nothing quite like MOA around these parts. Wells, 23, who grew up in West Hampstead before studying a curating course at Central St Martins kept the faith. “When this property came up, it has a massive basement downstairs, it was perfect. Once we opened everyone on Mill Lane has been very welcoming and intrigued. Were friends with Tom and Jenny from the Kitchen Table too and they have been very supportive. We get a lot of kids coming in, the fishtank is a child magnet.”

The name, Monsters of Art comes from a renowned 90s Danish graffiti crew, which Gold was a part of. Beginning with working on the s-trains in Copenhagen, the crew gained worldwide notoriety, creating pieces as far afield as New York and Japan. Now Gold and Wells use the internet and tags left on art on the street to hunt down the newest talent and sell their work in the gallery. “It’s a very tight knit subculture to get into but once you get your way in there it unravels this whole world you didn’t know about. If you see a tag next to work you like, you can usually track the artist down through asking people who they are. We do also track a lot of artists from abroad online.”

The pair have had some famous guests come to the gallery including street magician Dynamo (a friend of Gold’s after he played a trick on him), Boy George and Samantha Fox.

They’re here, like the people in the shop today, to browse potential art for their wall or for their skin. There’s some big names in the graffiti world here, including a couple of genuine Banksys and some work from Pure Evil (who was featured on the Apprentice) as well as some lesser known upcoming talent, like NEON, a female street artist -cum- fabric designer. Both originality and variation are key here: lining one of the walls are a series of tiles from a Japanese artist, at the cheaper end of the scale, under �100. A vast wall-size tattoo mural sits on the other wall for �7500. “We wanted to make a gallery that would cater for everyone, we wanted to have a price range so that anyone could come here and find something for them.”

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Monsters of Art Gallery is on Mill Lane, West Hampstead.