Bettie Morton MBE
2022 marks the 23rd anniversary of The Bettie Morton Gallery. In 1999 Bettie Morton M.B.E opened her eponymous gallery space in London on 62 Atlantic Road, SW2, Brixton
Bettie's boldness in opening a contemporary art gallery in the heart of Brixton, back then 23 years ago, came as a surprise to many and a delight to some. A week or so after opening, a woman rushed through the gallery doors and posed at the entrancing: "This gallery was not only needed here - it was long overdue!"
Bettie recalls her decision to open in Brixton: "I sensed that Brixton was on the cusp of change and central London was out of reach with high rents. A Bank Manager had said to me that if I were to consider other areas like Dulwich or Clapham, he might be prepared to offer me a start up loan". I chose to go against the mould - why go where other galleries existed already?".
From its base in the heart of Brixton and for the next ten years between 1999 and 2009 the gallery built an international reputation for innovation, boldness, individuality and energy. It became a community hub of excellence in the centre of Brixton; championing local and international artists.
As well as a hectic schedule of monthly exhibitions (over 120 exhibitions in total) Bettie went on to found two major projects which perhaps is what Brixton remembers her for most.
"Soon after opening the gallery I realised how many talented artists were living in and around Brixton. I could not possible fit them all in the gallery, to solve the problem I thought I would give everybody a chance by introducing the first ever Brixton Open Art Competition and hence the Brixton Open was born". From the outset in its inaugural year over 1000 works were entered into the competition and the judges had a difficult time whittling down to 100 works to be exhibited in the gallery, with 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes - the winner receiving £1,000. The Brixton Open collaborated with the Dulwich Picture Gallery and Camberwell Art College. The latter generously donated a cash prize from their `Alumni Artists Fund' to be presented to an emerging artist. With the support of local businesses and members of the local community, who generously gave their time and support the Brixton Open gained a very active role in South London.
Bettie's energy and enthusiasm saw her found a second Art Competition; The Young and Creative Art Competition - a collorabation with Clapham Park, Victoria & Albert Museum and South London Primary and Secondary Schools - to showcase the art of under 19yr olds, in particular in under-represented communities.
In 2005, The Bettie Morton Gallery brought the first Art Expo to Brixton entitled `NU Origins' which brought artists from further afield including international art from America, Africa and the Caribbean.
In 2012, Bettie was awarded an M.B.E for services to the arts.
"I felt honoured that my community had put me forward for such a prestigious accolade, which I thought only happens to other people"
With a twinge of regret and personal circumstances my family and I left London to live in the beautiful Cathedral City of Canterbury in Kent in 2012. The Bettie Morton Gallery continues its presence online on a consultancy basis and I have continued to write fiction in my spare time.
Currently I have my hands full representing two artists who are very dear to my heart:
My husband and painter: John Charles Morton and
My son and Sculptor: Tobias Charles Morton
Both John and Tobias will be exhibiting their work from 15 October to 5 November 2022 in the East Kent Open Houses.
The Bettie Morton Gallery sells works to individuals and to corporate collections. The gallery has had collections of work acquired by Kings College Hospital, McKinsey & Company Consultancy UK, Queen Mary University and many more.