Meet the owners
Where in Cambridge can you lay eyes upon a 68-million-year-old dinosaur skull alongside a Grayson Perry print? Extraordinary Objects gallery, of course. We meet founder Carla Nizzola, an avid collector of natural history and contemporary art
What inspired your love of art?
I’ve always been in the art world. I studied Fine Art and Art History at Lancaster University and stayed on to do a Masters, which is when I realised that I didn’t want to be an artist but work in curation in a gallery.
I landed my first job at Whitewall Galleries then was lucky enough to become gallery manager at a new urban art gallery in North London. The director Ben had launched Hang-Up Gallery online and wanted to open a physical space so I came onboard and learnt everything from the ground up. I was there for almost eight years, and that experience really helped me to gain the knowledge to open my own gallery.
Where did the concept for Extraordinary Objects come from?
It was all very organic. I’ve always been a collector of art as well as natural history and curiosities. I’d moved to Cambridge with my husband and was sitting at home looking at my different things, like small ammonites, a dinosaur bone and a Banksy and I thought actually these really work together – and there wasn’t anywhere displaying contemporary art alongside natural history. I wanted to give people a place where they could buy a dinosaur tooth and a Tracey Emin.
When did you officially launch?
To see how the natural history side would work, I hired a little cabinet at an antiques store just off Mill Road and put my smaller pieces in there like cut polished ammonites, dinosaur teeth, and fossilised dinosaur bones in stunning shapes. They all sold really well so I launched the Extraordinary Objects website in 2019, and joined different art platforms, aiming to be predominantly online. But then in summer 2020 I was walking through town and I saw this space on Green Street to let. I had a look around and it just screamed gallery to me! We officially opened in April 2021.
Who are your signature gallery artists?
Banksy, Grayson Perry, Bridget Riley, Tracey Emin, The Connor Brothers, so mostly we fly the flag for iconic British contemporary artists. I mainly deal in limited edition prints which are a lot more affordable and accessible than the originals which can be hundreds of thousands of pounds. So, people have the opportunity to own a piece by a living legend.
Which has been your favourite exhibition so far?
Our summer exhibition, Some Of My Best Friends Are Dinosaurs, which took about two years to come together, was fantastic. It showcased many specimens rarely seen outside of a museum including meteorites, rare iridescent ammonites, an ichthyosaur, and even a piece of the moon, which was absolutely stunning, like a polished marble!
The main showstopper was Tracy – a bisected triceratops skull. She came from America and it took about five hours to get her into the gallery with a team of about six people wheeling her in on a special contraption! Triceratops were my favourite dinosaurs as a kid as I loved watching them on The Land Before Time, so I became obsessed!
Where do you source your amazing natural history exhibits?
I go to the largest fossil fair in the world, which is held in Tucson and attracts palaeontologists from around the globe, who come to present their recent finds from meteorites to dinosaur bones. It’s incredible!
Why should we visit Extraordinary Objects?
It’s a place to inspire wonder and curiosity, to make you laugh, perhaps shock you – but most importantly, conjure up all sorts of emotions. We are showcasing iconic contemporary living artists who are really making a difference. So, you can come here and see a Banksy or a David Shrigley and while you’re at it you can marvel at a dinosaur, which I think is a pretty good day out!
Extraordinary Objects Gallery is at 14 Green Street, Cambridge. Visit extraordinaryobjects.co.uk
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