Tuesday, 16 October 2012



(Extracts from an article for STATE magazine - see http://www.state-media.com)

It may seem to defy the economy, but more and more new galleries are opening in London. Far fewer are closing, but there are parallel trends for relocation into central London (notably Ceri Hand from Liverpool, but also for example Bartha and Pippy Houldsworth from West London, MoT and Nettie Horn from the East End) or at least somewhat further west (WW, Madder 139 now Carslaw St Lukes), Beers Lambert, FOLD) expansion (Thomas Dane, Sadie Coles, Carlson, Sprovieri) or the settling into permanent spaces of formerly itinerant projects (Gazelli Arthouse, Tintype, Sumarria Lunn, Rob Tufnell). It all adds to the variety, and there’s plenty of quality, too. Here, from the thirty-odd I’m aware of, are ten of my favourite new-to-Britain galleries to open in London in the past year. They, too, illustrate the variety of the scene.   

Iavor Lubomirov and Bella Easton in their opening exhibition

South London Initiative  

Lubomirov-EastonEnclave 50, Resolution Way, Deptford: www.lubomirov-easton.com

Lubomirov-Easton, one of several interesting new spaces near Deptford railway station, was launched in June by artists (and art teachers) Iavor Lubomirov and Bella Easton. They have a history of involvement in artist-led initiatives, and say that the downturn has advantages for a non-profit model which is tied to the availability of affordable space rather than commercial income. They aim to present curated exhibitions and ambitious projects featuring both new and established artists, collaborate on residency and exchange programmes, and enable conversation and research. 

Left to right Maria Varnava, Bisi Silva, Ayo Adeyinka, Jude Cesar at their opening show

Out of Nigeria

Tiwani Contemporary, 16 Little Portland Street, Fitzrovia: www.tiwani.co.uk

Tiwani’s London directors are Maria Varnava, who came from Christies via African studies at SOAS; Ayo Adeyinka, a Nigerian dealer with a background in finance; and Tahitian collector Jude Cesar. They work closely with Lagos-based curator Bisi Silva.  Unsurprisingly, then, their focus is on Africa  and its diaspora, with a particular drive to document artists who haven’t previously had a catalogue. Whatever the overall economic position, they feel that there’s a positive momentum around contemporary art from Africa, as illustrated by recent auction results and by the Tate’s Africa programme. 

Steve Fletcher (left) and Jonathan Carroll in their gallery in front of Natascha Sadr Haghighian's work

New Model

Carroll / Fletcher, 56-57 Eastcastle Street – Fitzrovia: www.carrollfletcher.com

Jonathan Carroll and Steve Fletcher have invested adventurously in what might pass for a public space rather than a selling gallery: several flexible spaces arranged over two floors purpose-built by Allsop Gollings Architects; solo shows only so far, by artists using diverse media and integrated in an unashamedly curatorial manner across the whole space; and an active programme of events…  It’s a distinctive model, aimed at developing an international niche in the long term, and with a likely bias towards institutional sales at this stage. 

Lorenzo Ronchini through the door of his gallery
Italian Style

Ronchini Gallery, 22 Dering Street, Mayfair: www.ronchinigallery.com

There’s been no shortage of impressively-styled Italian galleries opening London branches in recent years, including Brancolini Grimaldi, Imago and Rosenfeld Porcini  and now   the gallery which Lorenzo Ronchini founded in Umbria in 1992  on the back of years of private collecting. While mindful of the economic crisis, he says London has traditionally been a safe haven for foreign investment and therefore many of the gallery’s collectors either have homes here or pass through regularly.  

Ché Zara Blomfield contemplates touching up the walls ahead of her Petra Cortright show

Under the Radar  

The Composing Rooms, Lower Level, Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Rd, Shoreditch: http://thecomposingrooms.com 

Never mind the radar, 24 year old Ché Zara Blomfield runs a space under Bethnal Green cinema near Shoreditch Station. There, on the back of an Arts Council grant, she provides the  first London exposure to artists –  often American – who engage with digital platforms. “That isn't to say”, she explains, “that the outcome of their work is limited to the digital - but that they’re conscious of the implications that new technologies present”. Some - notably Jon Rafman and Matthew Johnstone - have swifty gone on to show elsewhere. 

Diego Giolitti with galleries coordinator Dasha Varvarina in front of  Ilya Gaponov's painting

The Russians are Coming

Erarta, 8 Berleley St, Mayfair: www.erartagalleries.com   

Actually a Venetian, Diego Giolotti, is the London Director and public face of Erarta, based in St Petersburg. Giolotti is very much the international art specialist, having previously worked in San Francisco, Amsterdam, and Paris as well as his native city.  Russians are increasingly prominent collectors, and several London galleries now cater to that market (eg Regina, Art Sensus, Aktis).  Erarta’s focus is on non-conformist art - that produced outside the Soviet expectation of socialist realism in the 1950's-80's - and its successors. 

Melissa’s hair and Rosanna’s elbow at their Damian Taylor show
Affordable Intimacy

Hobbs McLaughlin, Flat 55, Balfron Tower, Poplar:http://hobbsmclaughlin.com

Using your own flat as a gallery is a low-cost option to enable what would otherwise be uneconomic. Melissa Hobbs, who also works in publishing and as a director at Hidde van Seggelen Gallery and artist / writer Rosanna Mclaughlin see their living space in Erno Goldfinger's brutalist  Balfron Tower as a chance to offer a different, more intimate, viewing experience from the more conventional gallery model. They say that artists – upcoming sculptor Alice Channer in the last show, American painter Lisa Smithey in the next - are excited by the unusual location. 

Nigel Mead

Investment Plus

Mead Carney Fine Art, 45 Dover Street, Mayfair:  www.meadcarney.com

Collector-turned wide-ranging dealer Nigel Mead and Danish co-founder of Saxo Bank Lars Christensen will combine primary and secondary markets. They’ve set up Mead Carney as a fine art advisory service which aims, they say, ‘to place great art with great people’ yet ‘with an emphasis on financial investment’. That runs parallel with a gallery programme which looks likely to be interestingly varied: their holdings range from Polke to Viola via Hirst and Long; they opened with Chinese designer Tina Tsang’s move into art.  

Strictly speaking these two aren't the rather camera-shy Carlos & Ishikawa, but the  alter egos of artist Joe Scanlan in the guise of Donelle Woolford in their last show...
East End Experimental

Carlos / Ishikawa, Unit 4, 88 Mile End Road, Whitechapel:  www.carlosishikawa.com  

Vanessa Carlos and Nara Ishikawa are childhood friends from Brazil who trained as artists. The former was Assistant Director at The Approach and directed the artist-run Wallis Gallery before the two joined forces, feeling that - hard times or not  - their experimental performance-based programme would be unusual enough to make an impact. They aim to give their young artists as minimum pressure, minimum constraint a platform as is possible in a  commercial space. Next up is ‘Net Narrative’, a group show investigating how stories are told as a way of engaging with the formlessness and flux of our networked environment.  

Marc Glimcher (with Sol LeWitt)
International Impact

The Pace Gallery, 6-10 Lexington Street, Soho: www.pacegallery.com 

Galleries don’t come much bluer chip than Pace, which has four spaces in New York and will shortly show Sugimoto, Rothko and Calder here. And if their location (a second floor in Soho) seems modest, the shows there haven’t been, and nor is the move to 9,000 square feet at 6, Burlington  Gardens in October, opened by a Rothko/Sugimoto combination.  President Marc Glimcher has explained the aims as reaching the global audience that converges in London and enabling Pace ‘to better support our artists based in Europe and to present the work of important American artists in London.’

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About Me

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Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom
I was in my leisure time Editor at Large of Art World magazine (which ran 2007-09) and now write freelance for such as Art Monthly, Frieze, Photomonitor, Elephant and Border Crossings. I have curated 20 shows during 2013-17 with more on the way. Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.