exploring the clerkenwell art scene
9 September 2012 § 1 Comment
The Clerkenwell art gallery scene in London is not quite as concentrated as that in say, Mayfair. Neither is it as cutting edge as that in Peckham or Vyner Street, not as hip and trendy as Hoxton nor comfortable as Bloomsbury. It is also not as expensive as the West End or Fitzrovia or even parts of the East end. Almost by default therefore it has recently become the area of choice for a new group of young and ambitious gallerists.
I took the opportunity of a rare sunny Saturday in London to jump on a Boris bike and take a home-made tour. A bicycle by the way is the perfect mode of transport for the maze of narrow one-way back streets, just off the busy main roads, where the galleries are tucked away. The galleries themselves have assisted the touring process by printing a neat little card featuring an extract from the A to Z on one side (upon which neat numbered red spots are liberally scattered) whilst the galleries are listed on t’other side. Seventeen to be precise.
A good place to start would be the Gagosian‘s newish space in Britannia St near Kings Cross. This big, slick space is totally atypical of the usual Clerkenwell gallery as well as being a little on a northern limb, so why not get it out of the way first and move on to the small (and very small!) spaces that typify the scene. It is also open on Saturday and has just opened its new Cy Twombly show – The Last Paintings – eight spectacular large works which are also shown with sixty-six of his photographs. You may not get the afore-mentioned map/card at Gagosian, but you should do at Work close by on Acton Street.
Rod Barton on Paget Street is a little off the track at Paget Street but usually well worth a side-trip to check out their shows which often feature recent graduates of the London art schools.
A little farther south Ancient & Modern and Madder 139 on Whitecross Street often have very interesting little exhibitions. I won’t run through all the many other galleries on the list but I will highlight a personal selection of those I would recommend that you should check out.
The first of these is Breese Little on Gt Sutton Street – the Little part being Henry, latterly of the Contemporary Art Society, so he should really know his stuff! The bold and colourful paintings of Tome de Freston are there in their neat little gallery until 15 September 2012 (above). Less neat and perfectly formed is the WW Gallery which is down an untidy back corridor and occupies a sequence of scruffy rooms – but we’ll let them off because it is a not-for-profit artist-run space. Despite the chaos it has some good artists – currently a great show from Ayuko Sugiura is on until 6 October (two images below).
Sell off any spare gold whilst you are in the warren of streets that make up Hatton Garden and then drop in to Tintype – a slick gallery with a small roster of interesting multi-media artists. Do not miss the Rokeby Gallery – well-established (since 2005) with some very well-established top quality artists and who exhibit at shows like the Armory and Hong Kong. A good show from Bettina Buck has just opened and continues until 20 October.
Finish off with the slick and well-organised Laura Bartlett Gallery. Sadly when I sped past they were on a break until October but they do usually have some very impressive shows from a quality stable of artists.
Got any energy left? You could always keep going west and start ticking off the Fitzrovia galleries. Not far from Laura Bartlett these start with great spots like Paradise Row in Newman Street or Rollo in Cleveland Street.
All too much? Finish off in Charlotte Street with a cold beer on the terrace of the uber-cool Charlotte Street Hotel. Cheers Boris!
- London’s independent art galleries: ten of the best (telegraph.co.uk)
- Mayfair’s art galleries under threat from developers (guardian.co.uk)