Livingstone gallery chain in Cornwall goes bust owing over £200K

Alicia Livingstone, owner of Livingstone St Ives, back in 2018, when the company was first known as Far & Wild. Livingstone St Ives has now been declared insolvent
-Credit: (Image: Sally Adams)

Artists say they fear they might never see the money they are owed by a Cornwall gallery after it went bust and its owner 'ghosted' them without a word. Livingstone St Ives, which had galleries in St Ives, Truro and Clifton in Bristol, has closed permanently, leaving dozens of artists high and dry.

The business was founded by Alicia Livingstone, 44, in 2018 as Far & Wild Ltd in Perranporth. It changed its name to Livingstone St Ives in 2021 and expanded with a gallery in St Ives, Bristol and even Chelsea in West London. While it no longer had a gallery in Perranporth, Livingstone St Ives grew some more with the opening of a new gallery in Lemon Street in Truro in March which launched with a solo exhibition by Cornwall artist Jack Davis.

However it has now all come crashing down and many of the artists feel they could be left out of pocket. St Just artist Jack said he is owed more than £50,000 by Livingstone St Ives while other artists who had been exhibiting regularly with the company are out of pocket to the tune of between £3,000 and £5,000.

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Jack, who has been with Livingstone St Ives for three years, said that at first he was paid on time but over the past two years payments had become increasingly irregular to the point that he's owed at least six months' worth of sales from September last year. He claims that Ms Livingstone has used the sale of artists' works to prop up her ailing business, effectively paying new art with old art while accruing massive losses.

He said: "I feel like she's taken the money from the sale of artwork that she owes artists like me to run her failing business but had no intention of paying me. Now's she's taken her business offline and changed her number and completely ghosted the artists."

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According to Companies House, Livingstone St Ives' accounts for 2022-2023 (which were filed on April 30 this year) show that the company had liabilities (debts) of £207,535. Accounts for the previous reporting year show liabilities of £72,718. Ms Livingstone is listed as the director, with a correspondence address at Krowji studios in Redruth and her occupation listed as 'curator'. An Alistair John Jones is listed as a previous director, for two year-long periods, the last ending in April 2022.

Jack added: "All the artists feel like they have been fed a lie and that she used the sale of their works to cover her costs. There is zero accountability and now it's all gone offline.

"All the artists have managed to recover their work back so at least there's that silver lining but while I hope there is a legal route to all this, there is no asset in the company so no-one will get paid. We understand that the staff have been told they will get paid but not a word to us the artists. Complete radio silence. I feels like it was all a cash grab job to pay her own liquidators.

"Why open a new gallery in Truro when you're over stretched already?"

Another artist, who didn't want to be named, told CornwallLive that she had been approached by Livingston St Ives a few weeks ago as part of a massive 'Open Call' to artists charging each artist a fee of £20 in a bid to "discover new talent from artists working across all media – from textiles to painting, printmaking, jewellery, photography and ceramics".

At the time of the Open Call announcement back in February, Ms Livingstone said: "Our gallery is committed to representing the most exciting emerging artists and promoting their work to the public. There are so many amazing artists are out there, creating innovative, striking, original pieces and we want to find them. This Open Call celebrates making art and we welcome any artist, at any stage of their hobby or career."

However the artist who contacted us said she had herself applied for it and may now have lost some money too. She said: "I fear it was just a money-making scam to save their gallery."

When we contacted Livingstone St Ives for a comment, we found that the website, Facebook page and Instagram accounts had all been shut down. We received this automated response message to our email: "Unfortunately, Livingstone St Ives gallery has taken the difficult decision to close our doors for the last time.

"Thank you to all our loyal clients and collectors who we have so enjoyed getting to know over the last four years. Thank you for supporting us and our artists. If you have any queries with any matters about the business ceasing to trade, please contact our representative William Buxton and Purnells:"

Mr Buxton, the insolvency manager at Purnells, said: "Purnells have been instructed to place the company into creditors voluntary liquidation as the company is insolvent and therefore cannot continue to trade. As a result of the company's insolvent status it is not in a position to make any payments to its creditors.

"Once the company is in liquidation the appointed liquidators will begin there investigation in to the causes of the failure and will report to the secretary of state in respect to the director's conduct. At this stage I am unable to comment as to the likelihood of creditors receiving the money that is respectively owed."

He added: "At the present time we are only acting in an advisory capacity and we will not have the legal authority to act or investigate until such time as we are appointed. We have currently requested that the director provides us with all of the necessary information needed to produce the company's statement of affairs and statutory notices will be sent to all known creditors in due course.

"In the interim I would ask that all creditors are patient and allow the law to take its due course. I fully appreciate that anyone who is owed money feels understandably aggrieved, however I am unable to say anything further at this stage."

He added: "If you are an artist and currently have works located at either of the company's premises I would kindly ask that you contact the gallery via the email address used to notify you of this problem and liaise with the employees regarding the return of you work. I can confirm that the staff have been retained for the next two weeks in order to facilitate this."

Jack, who has a studio at Krowji in Redruth, added: "I had no idea this was happening. Over the years I built up a good relationship with Alicia. But she didn't even give us a call. She changed her number and completely ghosted us. She's shown zero remorse. I feel I have been scammed."