It’s a long time since London’s Cork Sreet was synonymous with contemporary art
but nowhere else – neither Dering Sreet, Redchurch Street nor Vyner Street
– has consistently replaced it as the “one and only” art street in London. However,
Eastcastle Sreet 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, cafés abound.
This area is bordered by the Euston Road to the north, Oxford Street to the south, Bond Street to the west and Tottenham Court Road 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 Street but I haven’t yet visited it. Getty Images also has a gallery there.
Art First, originally founded in Birmingham, moved to Eastcastle Street from Cork Street 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 Street 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, as well as the Anglo-Russian Regina Gallery.
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 Street where you can compare it with the magnificent Victorian Gothic church of All Saints.
The very new Margaret Street Gallery, specialising in lens-based work, is a welcome collaboration between Zelda Cheatle and Debbie Goldman.
At the north end of Great Titchfield Street, 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 Street 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.
Further east, beyond the very well-known Alison Jacques Gallery in Berner Street, is yet another gallery launched in East London and now where the money (hopefully) is to be found: Paradise Row in Newman Street. The Piper Gallery, an ambitious new gallery specialising in artists whose career spans 40 years or more like Vaughan Grylls and Ed Allington, will open in Newman Street at the end of June.
Over to the east in Riding House Street (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 Street on 10 May 2012.
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 Street 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.
Back towards Oxford Circus, there are two more new galleries in Little Portland Street: Cole Gallery has a programme of young artists and the very interesting Tiwani Contemporary 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 Street, to point out some other newcomers. Selma Feriani is in Maddox Street 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 Street, 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 Street (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.
Gill Hedley, April 2012