Is the area between Piccadilly Circus and Carnaby Street, on the edge of Soho in London, becoming the new area for art galleries as former warehouse and manufacturing buildings are discovered and renovated, providing light, airy, flexible spaces only five minutes away from the more traditional locations around Cork Street and Bond Street in Mayfair?
Last year Sadie Coles HQ opened a new gallery spanning across the first floor from Kingley Street to Regent Street and last month the new Marian Goodman Gallery opened at the southwest corner of Golden Square, with 11,000 square feet (over 1,000 sq m) over two floors, designed by architect David Adjaye. This latest new gallery was originally constructed in 1886 by Holland & Sherry who were textile weavers supplying fabrics to the tailors on Savile Row.
Marian Goodman commented before the gallery was complete: “I have been thinking very seriously about London for a long time and I look forward to creating a major platform for our artists to exhibit in the vibrant and highly sophisticated London art scene. I am delighted to have David Adjaye on board for the redesign of the building and with his recent projects for the Smithsonian and the MEMO project in Cleveland – I believe that he will create something beautiful and inspirational for the artists. Since first seeing it, I was drawn to Golden Square, which feels very special and a part of the history of London. Reputedly laid down by Sir Christopher Wren and featured in the literature of its time, it holds a special place in the heart of London and we wish for the Gallery to continue this tradition.”
Marian Goodman’s inaugural exhibition is of new and recent works by Gerhard Richter, with some 40 works including new ‘Strip’, ‘Flow’ and ‘Doppelgrau’ paintings, plus a large glass reflective sculpture and a selection of earlier work, which complement the simple industrial character of the new gallery extremely well.
American artist Matthew Barney is currently showing a series of sculptures in the spacious top-lit galleries at Sadie Coles HQ, derived from his 2014 film “River of Fundament”. His work is characterised by the combination of decay, regeneration and transformation with a touch of alchemy and mysticism through inclusion of precious materials such as gold, silver, crystals and zinc to transform, for example a decaying car front into something with an entirely different value and meaning. At the centre of the gallery is a sculpture which could have come from the film “Alien”: “Sprawling and skeletal, it emanates the melancholic grandeur of an abandoned ruin or sarcophagus. Loops of corrugated tubing, arrayed like ribs along the chassis, evoke mummified remains; a large coiling pump speaks simultaneously of biological systems and insensate machinery. Marooned on blocks, the object stands both as a decimated vehicle and a body undergoing reincarnation: deposits of salt crystals at the two ‘poles’ of the sculpture seemingly presage a new transmutation.”
To show that there may not be a great difference between the quality of former warehouse spaces and old purpose-designed galleries, PACE’s gallery in Burlington Gardens, formerly part of the Museum of Mankind, has the simplicity, robust detailing, height and quality of daylight of its more industrial friends across Regent Street. The current exhibition fills the space with a retrospective of the 40-year career of the late Italian artist Marco Merz whose takes simple natural materials and combines them with sources of energy such as neon tubes to create work which have a tension between nature and industry, between the past and the present, as in Igloo con vortice (Igloo with Vortex) “The neon is experienced as an energetic flux or spearof light that passes through the object, thus destroying the idea of the solidity of the object…….punctured by the neon, the object becomes annulled as an icon but it is redefined as material; the neon abandons its own physicality and becomes light.” (Germano Celant)
All these galleries demonstrate that flexible, honest well-proportioned spaces with good daylight, and a touch of character, provide the right ambience for a range of contemporary art exhibitions.