London Up and Coming
In Art Market | Articles
By Ben Austin23 March 2012
n my last article I covered the big guns, the super galleries, many of which were born out of the YBA movement and the excesses of the 90′s. We are talking White Cubes and Gogo Gagosian.
Unsurprisingly there is a new generation of emerging galleries, headed up by dealers in their 20′s and 30′s who have little time for the showy and flashy art that proceeded them. These galleries, often hidden away in upstairs rooms or converted offices are the ones to watch out for. They represent recent graduates, the select few, the art stars of tomorrow. Now if I were a canny collector like Saatchi, I would be snapping up the work by artists in their stable, even if some of them do not make the final grade.
So who are these new wave London galleries that are breaking through? The galleries that have yet to get into the big art fairs such as Basel or Frieze, though it is only a matter of time before they do.
Poppy Sebire Gallery, located in Southwark not very far from the Tate Modern, is one such gallery. Poppy represents strong progressive artists, some of whom are already established and placed in serious collections, like Boo Ritson, whose work explores the boundaries between photography, sculpture and performance. Other notable artists in her stable include Danny Rolph, the author of vibrant abstractions, whose solo show currently on at the gallery is imaginatively entitled Kissing Balloons in the Jungle.
Edel Assanti is another gallery on the up, situated in the non-gallery area of Victoria. Charlie Fellowes heads up this split-level operation and for the Art Project space at the London Art Fair, the gallery bravely and rather brilliantly presented a booth installation by Gabriel du Bois, whose work straddles the doctrines of Street Art, Postmodernism and Arte povera. The leading light in Edel Assanti’s stable is Gordon Cheung who has a show coming up this year. Gordon has his studio on the top floor of the gallery and his hallucinatory work explores the boundaries between the virtual and actual realities of a globalized world, often using stock listings as a backdrop to his vistas.
Another interesting young gallerist is Jack Bell, who for a while rented a floor at the Edel Assanti space. Jack has carved out a niche for himself as a dealer of emerging African art. His current fledging space is perched on the top floor of a building in Mason’s Yard overlooking White Cube. When I popped by he had an interesting show by Gonçalo Mabunda, who makes sculptural objects from arms and weapons recovered from the terrible civil war that ripped his native Mozambique apart. Mabunda is most well known for his thrones, which are impressive fabrications. Other artists in Jack’s stable include, Leonce Raphael Agboddjelou, who documents the Egungun masqueraders. The next gallery show on April 4th is Kura Shomali.
Tom Cole is likewise a young gallerist, who seems to be on verge of breaking through, located on Little Portland Street in the West End. Tom has been staging thoughtful small group shows and I’m particularly impressed with the work by Dagmar Heppner, Hannah James and Charlotte Moth. The next show at the gallery is entitled, We Need These Images and features Alex Crocker, Richard Forbes-Hamilton and James Harrison. Cole Gallery now represents Oliver Michaels and showcased his video piece at the new Moving Image art fair (devoted to video work) last October at the Bargehouse in Oxo Tower Wharf.
Hannah Barry is definitely making waves as a progressive emerging gallery. They are a smart operation, as they have a proper exhibition space in Peckham, which is ‘the’ up and coming art area in London, but also have an office/showroom in the heart of West End on Bond Street, therefore getting the best of both worlds.
The next big show at the gallery is entitled Minstrel & Chronicle, opening on March 30th. This is a group exhibition of works looking at the dissemination of news and information through multimedia storytelling techniques.
Hannah Barry Gallery has to my mind got the right formula, representing strong young artists, such as the painter Shaun McDowell, whose loose abstraction vibrates with freshness and vitality. Other artists of note in their stable, include Nathan Cash Davidson, whose brute paintings seem to capture the spirit of the age and Gareth Cadwallader whose somewhat surreal yet comic paintings were featured in Newspeak: British Art Now at The Saatchi Gallery, which gives any artist a career boost.
The Cob Gallery in Camden is an interesting and beautifully designed split-level space around the back of Camden, not really an arty area, apart from the very fine Zabludowicz Collection on Prince of Wales Road. Two enterprising young women head up the space, one being the acclaimed playwright – Polly Stenham. The Cob Gallery stages Pop Up events, including collaborations with cutting edge organizations, such as Guts for Garters with whom they recently staged a show of the infamous Pete Doherty.
On the more serious art side, the gallery’s latest show entitled Sunday is by the emerging talent Mark Melvin. Time cycles and repetitions are important features of his multi-disciplinary work. Mark uses wordplay to comic effect in neon and juxtaposes images in video work, particularly effective is his diptych piece called Tomorrow. We are presented with two Jack Nicholsons, one from One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and other from, About Schmidt (2002). Both Jacks look uneasily at each other, the recognition is unsettling as the viewer simultaneously acknowledges the physical and psychological effects of time.
It is no surprise that Mark Melvin was one of the four finalists in the Saatchi 4 New Sensations, complete with a documentary on his work. He also won Nationwide Mercury Art Prize in 2005. Mark is hotly touted as an artist to watch out for in the future for important collections.
There are a few other London galleries that I would like to mention, which I think have an excellent program and great potential.
Sumarria Lunn in the West End have consistently for the last couple of years staged coherent and intelligent group shows. They represent Glasgow-based Littlewhitehead (Craig Little and Blake Whitehead), who are subversive in the manner of the Chapman Brothers. They aim to attack the comfort of received ideas by realizing the traumatic sights that are so routinely represented by the media as hyper-real sculptures. Littlewhitehead were likewise featured in The Saatchi Gallery – Newspeak – British Art Now exhibition.
Out East in hip and happening Shoreditch, is the Hoxton Art Gallery, which shows some fantastical landscape artists, namely Katie Sims, Nadine Feinson, Wieland Payer and Adam Ball. I am very much taken by Katie Sims’ beautifully crafted and poetic work.
Elsewhere in the area is Payne Shurvell, which has a more of conceptual aesthetic and Daisy Delaney’s work exemplifies that, through the displacement of art and commodity, revealing the banality of consumerism and the gallery world.
La Scatola Gallery, around the corner, is headed up by the Italian curator Valentina Fois. This gallery has been undeservedly overlooked as it has some excellent artists onboard, including the Swiss artist Stephane Blume. On March 30th, the gallery will host a performance piece by artist of the moment, Sarah Maple with Beverly Knowles. Sarah’s comical take on popular culture has her billed as the heir to Tracy Emin in the press.
Ebb & Flow, also in Shoreditch, impressed me recently with the solo presentation of work by Alinka Echeverria at the Volta art fair in New York.
There are of course many other emerging galleries dotted around London, such as Rod Barton, whose space is a converted garage. The next gallery group show is entitled Blitz and opens on March 22nd. Or even Ceri Hand, which has recently relocated from Liverpool to London.
I think it would be remiss not to mention a few galleries that have been around for a while and have already gained the exposure of important international art fairs, but are small enough to be accessible for entry-level collectors. Such galleries include Ancient & Modern, Hotel, Herald Street, Josh Lilley Gallery, Kate Macgarry, Seventeen and Rokeby, whose installation of work by Gideon Rubin at the Armory art fair was a real highlight.
London, like New York, has a constantly evolving art scene and with the fresh talent come the new galleries to represent them. The market has picked up and collectors are being bolder in their acquisitions. Some of the galleries mentioned in this article will go on to achieve great things as the quality of the artists shown is rarely in doubt.
The main difference between the two cities is that London is sprawling, with pockets of galleries spread throughout the city. Some of these spaces may be destination places, but well worth the time and effort to hunt them out.
Writing Credits: The son of a gallerist, Ben Austin grew up around contemporary art. After curating exhibitions at his mother’s Catto Gallery in Hampstead, he later founding CorporateCatto, a successful art for offices venture. Austin’s recent curatorial projects include Light Divided at the Blouin Institute, London, Unnatural Selection at Londonewcastle Project Space and, for the Frieze Art Fair, Decadence, Decay and the Demimonde at Home House in London. He is currently the owner and Director of Fluff PR, a small creative agency promoting galleries/dealers, independent artists and fashion designers. Fluff also stages events and shows.
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