The builders are finishing the final pieces of work and the cleaners are tidying and polishing ahead of the arrival of London’s newest art gallery – the Canada House Gallery – which reopens later this week as part of the refurbishment of the 1827 Canada House in Trafalgar Square, originally designed by Robert Smirke, architect of the British Museum and King’s College London on the Strand. The refurbishment, designed by Purcell Miller & Tritton and Stantec with Overbury as contractors, provides a new home for the Canadian High Commission which is moving out of its existing building in Grosvenor Square. The new gallery replaces an existing gallery but promises to be larger and more accessible, with the first exhibition showing five works of Canadian artist Jeff Wall, selected by the artist and displayed in conjunction with the White Cube Gallery and the Marion Goodman Gallery. The White Cube Gallery advises that the works, “which range from 1990 to 2013, take their subject matter from everyday life, incorporating influences from Western pictorial tradition, particularly the genre of history painting.”
Jeff Wall lives and works in Vancouver, British Columbia. Is it coincidence that there is another exhibition in London relating to British Columbia, being held at the Dulwich Picture Gallery which is holding the first exhibition in the UK of Canadian artist Emily Carr on the subject “From the Forest to the Sea – Emily Carr in British Columbia”?
The Canada House Gallery rejoins a growing cluster of national galleries around Trafalgar Square. Opposite Canada House is Sala Brazil established in 2012 and located on the ground floor of 14-16 Cockspur Street, originally built in 1906 for Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actiengesellschaft (The Hamburg American Line), subsequently occupied by P&O and then the Bank of Scotland before becoming the Brazilian Embassy. The building is decorated by elaborate sculpture outside and painting inside which celebrate its shipping history and provides a historical backcloth to the displays of modern Brazilian culture with the current exhibition being Art from Pernambuco arranged in association with the Rainhart Gallery.
Also nearby is the Korean Cultural Centre, in a modern building, where the current exhibition “Style Sharing”, designed by Tory Turk considers the relationship between Korean and British styles in fashion, exploring similarities and differences.
These galleries bring the culture of their countries to London and have economic benefit in encouraging tourism. Perhaps other embassies around Trafalgar Square could similarly could open up their ground floors, subject to security provisions, to do likewise?