Description of the new gallery scene in London's Fitzrovia for AXISweb, on-line visual arts index and information site UK April 2012. Gill Hedley is an independent curator, writer and consultant on contemporary visual arts.
It's a long while since London's Cork St was synonymous with contemporary art but nowhere else - neither Dering St.,
Redchurch St. nor Vyner St. - has consistently replaced it as the
one and only art street in London.
However, Eastcastle St. has a high density of new and well-established galleries. Why have so very many moved from
the east end or opened in the centre? I think the reason is probably the same one that has kept the Lisson where
it is since 1967. Some enthusiasts enjoy an art safari out east or down south. Those who are serious collectors
(a group that has expanded) mostly spend their time in central and west London, living there or visiting via Heathrow
and St. Pancras especially during Frieze.
What follows is not a complete listing but a guide to some of the couple of dozen galleries within a few minutes' walk north of Oxford Circus; fortunately, cafes abound.
This area is bordered by the Euston Road to the north, Oxford St. to the south, Bond St. to the west and Tottenham Court Rd. to the east but most of these galleries cluster in the middle, the rag trade district, on the edge of Fitzrovia whose pubs have played host to generations of the art world since the 1920s. Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood's son Jamie has now opened Whisper on Eastcastle St. but I haven't yet visited it. Getty Images also has a gallery there.
Art First, originally founded in Birmingham, moved to Eastcastle St. from Cork St. shortly after two prestigious galleries opened nearby: Pilar Corrias (whose artists include Rikrit Tiravanija and Philippe Parreno) and, opposite, Stuart Shave / Modern Art which moved west from Redchurch St and represents Karla Black, Eva Rothschild and Clare Woods. They have substantial neighbours in Carroll/Fletcher (whose owners met while working at Credit Suisse) which opened with John Wood & Paul Harrison and the Regina Gallery which is Anglo-Russian. In March 2012, Haunch of Venison opened a new space to complement their splendid Bond Street site (once home to Admiral Nelson). Bartha Contemporary, specialising in abstraction and minimalism, has moved from Notting Hill to Margaret St. where you can compare it with the magnificent Victorian Gothic church of All Saints. The very new Margaret St Gallery, specialising in lens based work, is a welcome collaboration between Zelda Cheatle and Debbie Goldman.
At the north end Great Titchfield St. Mummery & Schnelle and The David Roberts Foundation are both well-established. The former has a consistently interesting mix of painting and photography with a good helping of Scottish artists. The latter promises a new space in Camden for its collection and charitable activities. Great Portland St. is the temporary home of the remarkable England & Co. whose mixture of contemporary and historic modern was out on a limb in Notting Hill. They say they will now stay in Fitzrovia.
Over to the east in Riding House St. (after which Karsten Schubert and Thomas Dane's excellent art imprint is named)
is the Josh Lilley Gallery. It opened in 2009 with a show called Daily Miracles, the title taken from Gertrude Stein:
one of the most pleasant things those of us who write or paint do is to have the daily miracle. It does come.
Hot off the press, actually while writing this, comes news that Nettie Horn is moving here from Vyner St. on 10 May.
Nearby is the BBC with a public art work by Jaume Plensa. Breathing is an inverted glass and steel cone which beams light from the roof of the new building into the night sky, to coincide with the Ten O'Clock News, as a memorial to journalists killed on assignment and representing the spirit of broadcasting. On Langham St. is the small but elegant Gallery Vela which opened in 2010 and whose forthcoming group show includes Christina Mackie, George Henry Longly and Daniel Sinsel. Further east, beyond the very well-known Alison Jacques Gallery in Berner St., is yet another gallery launched in East London and now where the money (hopefully) is to be found: Paradise Row in Newman St.
Back towards Oxford Circus, there are two more new galleries in Little Portland St. Cole Gallery has a programme of
young artists and the very interesting Tiwani focuses on
Nigeria, Africa and its diaspora, as well as the Global South.
They work in collaboration with the Centre of Contemporary Art, Lagos.
I will now stray a bit, just south of Oxford St., to point out some other newcomers. Selma Feriani is in Maddox St. and works with Middle Eastern and North African artists; Sumarria Lunn, in a basement in the midst of the fashion shops and antique markets on South Molton Lane, is always worth seeing and arranges pre-exhibition studio visits for press and curators; and, of course, the redesigned Photographers' Gallery on Ramillies St., just off Oxford Circus, which, when it re-opens in mid-May, brings a major publicly-funded space to the area.
Ronchini Gallery, founded in Umbria in the 1990s, has opened in Dering St. (next door to Blain Southern) while neighbour Annely Juda is currently showing the work of Roger Ackling in its beautiful spaces. These were designed by Max Gordon whose gallery for Charles and Doris Saatchi in Boundary Road in the 1980s set the standard for today's kaleidoscopic London art world.