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Mustard, Gold, Ochre…? No, it’s “Chromium Yellow”!

Bailey Contemporary has enjoyed a fruitful run down here in the Kings Road Arches, but this year sees us blossom into something new; KATAN. We’ve renamed, refurbished, and rebranded and we’re ready to share our new vision with you! With all the changes we are making here, it would be easy to let some of the details go unnoticed…

Frederique decided to go back to her origins and her family name, KATAN was reborn into a whole new brand, we modified our website and redesigned the gallery space, but have you clocked our new colour scheme?

The bright pink has gone and it has been replaced with a gorgeous golden yellow hue; and whilst this is a very contemporary interior statement, this colour actually has a very interesting artistic background.

So let’s start by acknowledging the little niggle in the back of our minds thats telling us there is something very familiar about this colour; does the word ‘Sunflowers’ spring to mind?



It was the late summer of 1888 when Vincent van Gogh began working on his iconic floral arrangements; creating a vibrant series of paintings to adorn his entire studio. As he painted, he envisaged a lively symphony of colour on his canvas- but whilst the artists of the avant grade movement at the time had a variety of rich red and blue pigments, there didn’t seem to be an equivalent option for the third primary colour: yellow. Thats where chrome yellow comes in. After Van Gogh found this colour, he began a love affair with its vibrancy and pigmentation and used it throughout his works.

Now to be clear, although Vincent van Gogh is often associated with this colour, he wasn’t actually the one who discovered it. Back in 1762, a scarlet orange crystal was found within the gold mines of Siberia. Later named crocoite, supply of this ore was irregular and its costly price deemed it almost useless as a pigment. 

Fast forward to the laboratory of Nicolas Louis Vauquelin in 1797 where the chemist discovered the raw orange stone (crocoite) contained a before undiscovered element. Vauquelin named this new metal chrome; a reference to the Greek translation of colour and inspired by the variety of hues of salt created by different methods of production of this element. It wasn’t until the following century that chrome was being commercially used as a pigment, but its characteristically unstable qualities have caused some issues.

Going back to van Gogh; he was an avid lover of colour, applying thick lashings of paint across his canvases in his iconic impasto fashion. Because of his obsessive knowledge of pigments, its with sad irony that the chromatic yellow he loved so dearly began to darken as time passed by. His once vibrant sunflowers were becoming dull from the exposure to sunlight and reaction to other organic paint pigments; causing them to appear as if they are wilting. Rather poetically, van Gogh quoted in a letter to his brother: ‘paintings fade like flowers’, a touching reference to the ephemeral nature of the beauty around us.

So with that, our brief history lesson on chrome yellow comes to an end. Luckily things have progressed since then and our striking new feature wall will be beaming colour for many years to come!




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