All change down at the bottom end of Vyner Street and the end of pretty much the last gallery standing on the once much loved East London Street that has pretty much had the heart and soul developed out of it by the the builders of expensive shoe boxes and the self proclaimed “future thinkers”. The big white cube at the bottom of the street, a space that some might say never really caught the spirit of what the street was about during the best days, the big (big) white Wilkinson Gallery has now closed. The gallery website carries this minimal message… “Wilkinson Gallery is now closed -Amanda and Anthony Wilkinson will be opening new spaces – details to follow”
It would be fair to say that most of us who found ourselves doing things in the artist-led spaces and galleries on the street (as we did ourselves with Cultivate for the five or so years before the developers got us) never felt that much love from or for the big Wilkinson operation (or for that matter the “Wilkinson stare”, the disapproving look we’d get if eyer eye contact was accidentally made, that and their point-blank refusal to say hello or smile, let along acknowledge any of the other galleries or spaces on the street).
The Wilkinson space was (and is) a wonderful building to enjoy art in though, and having been to most shows and exhibitions is the very big and rather beautiful space in recent years (and having probably been responsible for a good percentage of the footfall and people directed from our corner to their very big black door that never did like to hint that there might be a gallery there or that it might even be open if you dare to ring the door bell). There were some very good shows in the big white Wilkinson space now and again though, one or two real highlights alongside what, in all truth, really wasn’t that much of an exciting program of art shows.
It is always disappointing to see the doors of an art space close for good, especially on the now rather devoid Vyner Street, but hey, for once we’re not seeing a space closing down. The giant space that has seen galleries and studios all around it close as landlords sell out to the soulless developers (or the self-proclaimed Future Thinkers”. The Future Thinker has closed more spaces than anyone else while claiming to be a friend of the arts)
This time it isn’t all bad news, indeed in this case it might be rather good news, rather than closing, the Wilkinson Gallery is to be taken over, re-branded and is to re-open in October as A new space for Modern Art.
As much as we we’re amused just now to read a headline trumpeting the opening of a New 6000 sq. ft. gallery on Vyner Street, Modern Art are to actually open their second London gallery space in what is now the former Wilkinson Gallery building on Vyner Street (on the borders of Hackney and Bethnal Green, London, E2). “The venue will operate a concurrent exhibition programme alongside that of their existing gallery on Helmet Row, London EC1. The former Wilkinson space is 6000 sq. ft. the premises provides Modern Art with a further two gallery spaces (two very big rooms upstairs and down), and gives Modern Art the capacity to schedule multiple exhibitions at one time between the two venues”.
Modern Art will open on Vyner Street on October 3rd, the “new” gallery will be inaugurated by Civil War, a major new body of work by the American artist Josh Kline. “Civil War builds upon Kline’s project Unemployment, made and exhibited over the last two years, which looks at the potential human consequences of automation, artificial intelligence, and mass-unemployment in the decades ahead. Civil War explores the socio-political implications of these transformations in the context of the United States.
Meanwhile at Modern Art‘s Helmet Row space , a solo show of paintings by the Austrian artist Martha Jungwirth, opens 2nd October. “Although having worked as an artist for the past five decades and occupying an important place in Austrian art history, Jungwirth has only recently come to wider international attention. This will be her first solo show in the UK”.
So, not so much a new gallery opening in East London, but a potentially exciting development and impressive art space evolving in what will hopefully be a positive way. Thanks for all the shows (and those stares) Wilkinson, we wish you well and look forward to your next moves, and we look forward to Josh Kline and the further developments down the street from Modern Art. Maybe Vyner Street isn’t completely over after all? (sw)