The Business Profile: Frame and Fortune; A Former Cowboy and Brewery Worker, Paul Green Has Moved from Such Small Beer to Become the Head of a Pounds 12m-a-Year Art Gallery Empire. John Cranage Paints a Vivid Picture of a Man Who Combines Creativity with Business Acumen
Byline: John Cranage
For a man who has just sold pounds 1 million-worth of paintings, virtually overnight, Paul Green does not fit the image of your average art dealer.
When you meet the managing director of Birmingham's Halcyon Gallery you look in vain for the public school/Oxford-educated aesthete with an accent tailored to impress the Bond Street art set.
What you get instead is a Birmingham-born 43-year-old from a non-Orthodox Jewish background, who came to the art world after spells (among other things) as a cowboy on an Israeli kibbutz and a beer bottler at the old Davenport's brewery.
He's a man who combines a passionate desire to develop the careers of artists with a firm grasp of business principles. And there's nothing provincial about Paul Green or his pounds 12 million-a-year business, either.
As well as its Birmingham base in the International Convention Centre, Halcyon has a well-established London gallery in Selfridge's and is about to open a third in nothing less than the Duke of Wellington's old port cellars in Bruton Street.
Halcyon is big news at the moment, though, through its staging of an exhibition of work by William Hague's favourite artist, Mackenzie Thorpe. Just as with his sponsor, Paul Green, there's a great deal more to Thorpe than that, however. His dark industrial townscape pastels have resulted in some critics hailing him as the new L S Lowry.
The Gas Hall exhibition, which continues next week, attracted nearly 1,000 guests on its opening night and has resulted in a virtual sell-out of nearly 200 images and sculptures.
'The Mackenzie Thorpe exhibition is by far the biggest we have ever done and was a pounds 1 million sell-out in less than two days. The response was astonishing,' said Paul.
He was born into a family of tailors in King's Heath, Birmingham, and was educated at the Sir Wilfred Martineau School in Tile Cross.
'I was not very good at school. My reports always said the same thing, 'nice boy, helpful, could do better, lacks concentration'. Exams were not my strong point.
'I was not especially interested in art, but whenever we were away on holiday we would look at buildings and churches. Although I come from a Jewish background, we were not Orthodox and my father was always interested in all forms of culture.'
After A levels, Paul left Birmingham at the age of 17 to spend a year on a kibbutz in the Jordan Valley.
'I worked on a fish farm and, as a cowboy, dragging cattle out of minefields and things like that. It was an amazing year.'
Back in England, he enrolled at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester - but quickly realised that farming wasn't for him.
'To start with, the college came as a shock,' said Paul. 'I had gone to a comprehensive school and wasn't used to what was basically a public school life. Nor was I used to being surrounded all day solely by men.
'After a term at college I did a spell of practical work on a farm at Ely, but when I failed one of the many exams I decided that enough was enough.'
The job at Davenport's brewery came next, and was then that his mother spotted a newspaper advertisement that resulted in a job with a Canadian art dealer specialising in prints by the Italian royal portraitist Annigoni.
'I borrowed the money from my grandmother to buy a car and went out to sell prints on commission around the country. …