Twentieth century urban planning has not been good to Edgware Road in London – the start of the busy road north that joins to the AI and thence to Scotland, when transport planners ruled the roost and created the flyover high above the road taking traffic out west, eventually to the M40 and thence to Oxford and Birmingham. Typically, no-one thought of the effect of such plans on Edgware Road beneath, the businesses and the pedestrians trying to go about their everyday activities, with even Edgware tube station split between the different lines, symptomatic of the priorities of the time. People were nothing – the car was king!
New developments of offices, hotels and housing having not added much in the way of improvements, their architectural quality best forgotten, though there are a couple of small bright spots in the two homes of the Lisson Gallery, bringing optimism and creativity to the area. From one perspective, it is a pity that, unlike Chelsea in New York, the Gallery’s bold decision to establish itself here has not been followed by others; from another it gives the Gallery a unique perspective and location. The nearest gallery in the same street – Mark Jacobs – works in collaboration with TAG Fine Arts London which tends to hold exhibitions in a variety of different venues including contemporary art fairs, but not here as far as I am aware.
As you stood in the courtyard of the Lisson Gallery at 27 Bell Street and looked upwards, past the tree roots cast from remnants of the endangered Pequi Vinagreiro tree, reinforcing the loss of the Brazilian forest and its impact on the world’s ecosystem, by the rebel Ai Weiwei in the autumn and the spiralling naturalistic forms of Tony Cragg’s ‘Stacks’ this winter (which can be glimpsed over the wall from the street), you do wonder what the occupants of the uninspiring modern block of flats overlooking the Gallery think and whether they carefully venture forward, press the doorbell and explore inside where they would have found a variety of new works by Weiwei, using both traditional materials and new – in the form of LEGO. Do they realise that they have a centre showing the best of contemporary art on their doorstep? Similarly as pedestrians or pupils from the school opposite walk past the second gallery space at 67 Lisson Street with its ground floor windows do they stop and wonder at what they are seeing, with American artist Stanley Whitney’s geometric explorations of colour in the autumn, now replaced with Richard Deacon’s twisting and turning wooden sculptures plus other works.
They are indeed fortunate and I hope that members of the local community do embrace and enjoy what the Lisson Gallery provides on their doorstep.