ORGAN THING: The London art year, 2019, the best of it? Exciting? Underwhelming? Conflicted? Transforming? Engaging? Aloof? Marton, Sterling, Tracey, Pez…


Marton Nemes at Annka Kultys Gallery, East London, October 2019

So what did excite is in terms of the London art scene in 2019? Cleaning up before we get on with the business of properly entering the roaring twenties or whatever we’re going to call this new rather foreboding decade. The plan was to do one of those retrospective “best of” look backs over the year of London art of we encountered.  And no, we don’t claim to have seen or covered everything, this isn’t a best of absolutely everything that happened, just a best of the many things we did encounter and we did cover. We do go to lots and lots (and lots) of art shows and galleries both big and small, we don’t cover everything we encounter, we don’t really need to cover the really big ones on these fractured pages do we? Mostly we’re focused on the smaller shows, the ones out on the edges, the ones we feel positive enough about to spend time documenting in some kind of way.  We go to lots of shows that frankly don’t excite us or motivate us in any kind positive way, a lot of art school attitudes that really aren’t backed up by the art of the walls of floors  A “best of”? Well really, truth is, the year left us a little underwhelmed, compared with recent year, 2019 was a little flat. oh there were things to stimulate, to excite – Marton Nemes at Annka Kultys Gallery, Sterling Ruby at Frieze, getting to see inside the studio of Jeanette Barnes over in Hackney Wick, and yes Tracey Emin at the White Cube was a highlight that couldn’t be ignored even we don’t really feel the need to cover the bigger shows. 2019 was a little terms of the back streets and the artist-led spaces, it was a little conservative and playing things safe in terms of the West End, while street art or urban art or whatever you want to call it was very very conservative and way too caught up in the business of it all. Here’s what did stand out during a slightly underwhelming 2019….

January 2019 actually kicked of with the now annual Condo thing – we’re off to explore Condo 2020 any moment now as we wait for the new year to kick off in terms of art – the policy here at Organ though is to only really bother covering something if we feel positive about it,and Condo 2019 was. on the whole, at best. disappointingly underwhelming in a rather annoyingly aloof kind of way, the emperor had his art coat on and no one wanted to tell him he was naked, maybe Condo 2020 will offer a little bit more? 2019 didn’t really kick off until the opening night party atmosphere Punish The Street…


Punish the Streets opening, New Art Projects, Hackney, East London, January 2019

ORGAN THING: The art year is off with a touch of style and a lot of colour at the rather packed Punish The Streets opening… – The art year is off and running then, off with a touch of beautifully chaotic style with some art, some fashion, some club culture, some people watching at the rather packed opening last Thursday night at New Art Projects… more

Then there was Attract back at the start of the year, a short sharp maximalist art show, a Cultivate takeover over at Dalston’s BSMT Space gallery, and then the delight of Doreen Fletcher….


Doreen Fletcher – A Retrospective at Nunnery Gallery, London E3, January 2019

Doreen Fletcher – A Retrospective at London’s Nunnery Gallery. They look wonderful, the light, the atmospheres, the empty streets so full of life… – They look wonderful, the light, the atmospheres, the empty streets so full of life, t and then there was the delight of her café fronts, the shops, the light under the bridges, the bus stops, that one painting of a bus stop in the twilight especially (that light in the window, that… more

In February we really (really) enjoyed Phillip Allen –  ORGAN THING: Modest paintings, small paintings, very big paintings, Phillip Allen at The Approach gallery, London E2… – The Approach is a strange place, one of those galleries that doesn’t like to tell you it exists, no sign of a sign or anything like that, if it wasn’t for that familiar murmur of an opening night “private view” that a crowd… more


Phillip Allen at The Approach, London E2, Feb 2019

February was mostly about Tracey though, we don’t really want to spend too much time and space covering the big names and the big shows, they tend to be what the mainstream London art media focus on, we’re more about the things in the smaller galleries, the artist-led things, the back rooms of East London (although it did feel like those shows were happening a lot less often again in 2019). We can’t ignore what February was mostly about though…

ORGAN THING: Tracey Emin, A Fortnight of Tears, opening night, big queues, She’s Marmite, bring it on, the shock of those selfies, it really is all about those big paintings though, love it, art excites, want more Marmite… – There’s a buzz in the air walking down Bermondsey Street in the cold and the rain, there’s crowds of people all heading in the same direction, feels more like a medium sized rock concert rather than the…more


TRACEY EMIN, A Fortnight of Tears – White Cube, Bermondsey, London SE1, Feb 2019

– ORGAN THING Back to the White Cube, a second look at those Tracey Emin paintings, John Crossley’s colour at Eames, Subversive Stitch, on with the exploring, more art, on on on… – The intention always was, whatever the thought on the show after the hoopla of the opening night, the intention always was to go back without all the noise and the distraction, to go and quietly look again in the cold light of day, to this time watch the film and to actually sit and read… more

There was also Grant Foster – ORGAN THING: Grant Foster’s bold paintings at East London’s Lychee One – Now Lychee One really is a new gallery (or at least the new home for the gallery, Lychee One relocated to E8 late last year), a gallery that hides in plain sight, sandwiched on a back street between London Fields railway station and Hackney’s… more


Grant Foster at Lychee One, Hackney, East London, Feb 2019

In March the rather powerful Hyon Gyon show at Parasol Unit was still on, there was another Dale Grimshaw show at Well Hung but Dale really is at his best out on the street rather than at a rather conservative self-proclaimed white-framed urban art gallery. There was Beth Collar at Matt’s Gallery, there was The Next Wave: The Power of Authenticity and Self-Validation a rather rewarding group show at Hoxton Arches, London E2. a show curated“The House of African Art that had some very strong pieces hanging on the walls. Meanwhile lots of artists came together to fight for Stour Space over in Hackney Wick (although some of us would later question why we had, swimming?!). Oh and there was the always very rewarding subtlety of Fergus Hare over at Fred Mann’s consistently rewarding New Art Projects down by the canal in Hackney –

ORGAN THING: The beauty of twilight horizon, Fergus Hare’s new work at New Art Projects, Freya Douglas-Morris at Lychee One…  – Cats aside, on we go, nothing much to report from the art shows explored on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday then, what did Thursday have to offer? Well Freya Douglas-Morris had a show opening at the rather understated Lychee One gallery that quietly nestles over in the fast changing hinterlands between London Fields and Mare… more

And we can’t leave the look back at March with a mention of the revisit to those Houses of The Holy and the much missed Danny Pockets at Westbank Gallery. Here’s a review of the orginal 2018 show at the Albert Hall –  ORGAN THING: Danny Pockets, Houses of The Holy, a celebration in paint, a celebration of time, place and painter…


“Fantabuloso – graphic art by Villain” at Atom Gallery, London N16, March 2019

In April there was the slang of Villain – ORGAN THING: Fantabuloso, Villain, Captain Pride, Iron Hoof and a whole load of Polari superheroes at Atom Gallery, and meanwhile up St. Augustine’s Tower, Hackney, The Fields Beneath…  – Things get a little fractured when you’re knee-deep in fruit down by the flower market. Solo shows are interesting things, you learn a lot about yourself as well as others, about how people view you, how they view your art, you learn a little more about how you see things, about the sideways feel of… more

What else in April? Well there was Sam Windett at The Approach (or should we say the rather secretive Approach? They do like to hide, they’re not that approachable up there above the pub via the unmarked door), there was also a Lisa Oppenheim show in the same gallery – I do like The Approach, I just wish they were a little more friendly an approachable. There was Anita Klein at Eames down in Bermondsey, always worth a look in at Eames. There was the Fruit Shop at Shipton Street but that’s too much trumpet blowing again. .


Jason Martin

May came along and well, after the beautiful chaos of 2016, Kembra Pfahler‘s return to East London and Emalin didn’t quite ignite in the same way. There was that ‘My Kind of Protest’ show at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery and that Nasser Azam show at Saatch, Frea Buckler came back for more and did her Polychrome thing at Jealous East, Geometric Expressionism is what she (or maybe it was the gallery sticing a label on it?), called it. do rather like Frea’s clean cut brightness. Jason Martin stood out with his Long Way Home show at Lisson Gallery, it kind of got a little overshadowed by other things happeing over the road in Lisson’s other building on that opening night, it woz Jason Martin wot won the night though. Recreational Grounds V happened over at that car park in Wendover House on the Aylesbury Estate, a post war brutalist building over in SE17, there was Ricardo Cavolo‘s Hero’s Wound show at the ever active ever colourful StolenSpace gallery over in Whitechapel, there was Bertrand Fournier at the rather nomadic Delphian Gallery (do wish they’d cut the crap with their door policy)    And then there was Marc Lee‘s show, Non-Places at Annka Kultys Gallery on the Hackney Road, one of the more rewarding galleries of the last couple of years –  ORGAN THING: Marc Lee at Annka Kultys Gallery, very much an exhibition in an art gallery, a compelling show, a show that’s hard to leave… – You never quite know what you’re going to get at Annka Kultys Gallery but you know that a good percentage of what happens in that rather formal rather unassuming white cube of a space above a shop by Cambridge Heath station on the… more


ART CAR BOOT FAIR, Kings Cross, London, June 2019 –

June brought the Mayfair Art weekend, it didn’t excite like it has done previously, likewise London Art night failed to ignite or engage, thankfully this year’s Art Car Boot Fair did spread some much needed love in a rather fractured loveless year

ORGAN THING: And so the 2019 Art Car Boot Fair happened – different, defiant, same as it ever was, you have to love it… – We’re not in Kansas any more, we’re not in Brick Lane either, we’re in some kind of futurist science-fiction-fuelled alternative vision of Kings Cross, it seems far more futuristic than it was (not far from here) last year. Kings Cross was once such a beautiful wasteland, it was our playground, Kings Cross was alive with… more


Transformations – Sue Tilley

In July there was that excellent  Transformations show and then the Whitecross Street Party..

ORGAN THING: Transformations, Sue Tilley, Dylan Meade and Fredrik Andersson at New Art Projects, Hackney, more of a beautiful thing than “controversial” thing…  – Transformations – Sue Tilley, Dylan Meade, Fredrik New Art Projects, Hackney, East London  – So what to make of this one?, What to make of everything right now? Going to as many London shows as ever but where has the spark gone? Is it just me? Not seeing so many shows that really…more

ORGAN THING: The Whitecross Street Party, a taste or two of what went down last weekend…  –  – The overall feeling at the tenth annual Whitecross Street Party is exactly that, the feeling of a rather good East End urban art flavoured street party; a street party alive with energetic colour, with lots of fun, alive with art, with…more


Hackney Wicked, July 2019 – Bridget Riley Studios, open weekend – Jeanette Barnes

Back in August Hackney WixkEd kind of disappointed in a rather conflicted manner, besides the diamond or two while searching through the open studios, the diamonds that were people like painter Paul Dash. Jeanette Barnes and a her open studio was a a real delight. There was that from Seven Skips show over at The Arts Building, Finsbury Park, another rather adventurous show from Skip Gallery’s Catherine Borowski and Lee Baker, oh and Pez hit town and got us smiling (like he has done since1999). Julia Maddison kept popping up with her anarchy and her knickers an tea towels, as did The Misfortune Teller and his wise words and Yulia Robinson with her beautiful use of paint…


Yulia Robinson – painting detail, November 2019

And there was that James Johnston show at Stash Gallery, under that church at Vout-O-Reenee’s –  ORGAN THING: James Johnston, best known as Gallon Drunk’s frontman, is also a painter, his paintings sound like his music looks, tonight we’re catching the closing of his excellent solo show at Vout-O-Reenee’s, East London…  –  – James Johnston, mostly, at least for those of us who have been in London long enough and lucky enough to witness his development, is best known as Gallon Drunk’s frontman, he has also spent considerable time working with others: a mid 90s spell as a touring… more


James Johnston, Stash Gallery, East London, August 2019

Back in September there was Darren Coffield‘s rather strong “Against The Tide”show at Dellaposa, there was the Temporary Autonomous Art thing, there was Susan Hiller at Matt’s, there was Donk, Ben Ryder, Skeleton Cardboard at Well Hung (do wish that place wasn’t so polite about it all though) , there was the rather excellent end of summer atmosphere of Graffestival at the Nomadic Community gardens, we’re going to miss that place. There was Dave Buonaguidi’s,Say It With Flowers at Nelly Duff, there was Francesca DiMattio’s Caryatid at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery and Dominic Shepherd,at Charlie Smith London. We really should mention those Rebel Dykes and their art, There was the always rewarding Norman Ackroyd at Eames, there was the pop art of Miss Bugs at Jealous, and we really must remember Type, spying a big Type over the river was always rather good.


Nomadic Gardens

October was Frieze week, and as we’ve said before, if you are going to bother with the big fairs and the offensive excesses then Frieze is the only one really seriously worth bothering with as you wrestle with your concious and wonder about the carbon footprint and why they have to charge that much for a bottle of water?  There were all the other fairs of course, but hey, they don’t treat the artists that well do they?

Moniker deserted the East End in search of whatever they were searching for over in Chelsea, it was made quiet clear we weren’t welcome, seems they didn’t like our coverage from previous years, doesn’t sound like many bothered to head West, sounds like the galleries involved weren’t that happy, doesn’t sound like we missed that much. Finding the treats at Frieze took a little more time this year, it did mostly feel very very (very) conservative this year, Sterling Ruby‘s big space was the highlight of Frieze and probably one of the highest highlights of the whole art year, Sterling Ruby really was a gasp of fresh air after a couple of hours exploring the giant tent….


Marton Nemes at Annka Kultys Gallery, East London, October 2019

Actually, the Marton Nemes show at Annka Kultys Gallery was the highlight of the Frieze week, the month of October and if we were pushed then the highlight of thewhole year, yes the Marton Nemes show was the best thing of the year, followed closely by Sterling Ruby at Frieze, those two really did excite a little more tha nmost things did in 2019,,,,

ORGAN: FRIEZE WEEK Part 2 – Getting rather excited about Marton Nemes at Annka Kultys Gallery, don’t let this one get lost in all the noise of Frieze week, Marton is an exciting artist…  – There’s torrential rain flooding the streets of Hackney this evening, but then there’s also the promise of a Marton Nemes show, an opening night that really must be caught however heavy the rain, there won’t be time later this week and… more


Frieze London, 2019, Sterling Ruby, (Gagosian)

ORGAN: FRIEZE WEEK Part 5 – The fair itself, why was it so damn conservative? Did Sterling Ruby and the Gagosian save it all with the help of Joyce Pensato’s giant Mickey? – Was it as opulent this time, was it as big a beast? The sign outside certainly wasn’t as big, no big shiny black mile-high towering sign overlooking everyone coming in this year, instead a more subdued green one, that sign says so much, things aren’t quite so bold in 2019. Is opulent the right word?… more 

ORGAN: FRIEZE WEEK Part 6 – Kembra? Marton? Sterling? William J O’Brien? The obligatory ten best things at Frieze list we all have to do once the dust has settled… – And so the dust or whatever it was has settled, the vast vast (vast) white tent is probably down by now, the whole damn global art fair circus has already moved on, “oh darling, Frieze is so last week now”, the money has been counted or laundered or whatever it was all really about, the… more


Frieze London, 2019, Sterling Ruby, (Gagosian)

What else in October? Well there was Peter Davies and his painterly style at The Approach once again, really should have written something about that show, Then there was  Mr Jago at Unit. Now Unit really is a dreadfully glossy West End gallery and the piped music and over polished floors do give it the feel of a Ferrari showroom rather than an art gallery and yes I know it is a commercial venture and they’re not pretending to be anything other than a slick Ferrari showroom, can’t stand the gallery, did quietly enjoy the Mr Jago show though. There was Mexican street artist Saner at Dorothy Circus, there was that Andrew Logan & Jennifer Binnie at Gallery 286, and there was a rather impressive first London solo exhibition for South African artist Schalk van der Nadia Arnold, oh and there was those Shepard Fairey shows as well a big wall painted right outside out studio here in Hackney which was kind of good to witness (and wake up to every morning, it does look good in the Eat London sunsets, it looked even better under the fireworks of New year’s Eve)


Emma Harvey – What Would joan Jett do?

November kicked off with that coming together at Atom Gallery for the Can I Get A Slice show,  Not really sure Deptford X was that rewarding or engaging this year, the parade on the last day looked like it was fun though. And yes, we put on our Cultivate hats and put on a show or two ourselves… Back in November there was a rather fine  Yulia Robinson solo show,  Emma Harvey‘s wall of Joan Jetts, and then Nothing Is Square happened over at Shipton Street Gallery, just off East London’s Columbia Road, meanwhile My Dog Sighs was down the road at Nelly Duff, it was almost like Vyner Street, almost…


Pez, My Dog Sighs and a #43Leaves piece, Brick Lane, London, September 2019

ORGAN THING: A busy East London Thursday, packed out at Nothing is Square, My Dog Sighs gets very busy at Nelly Duff and what did Joan Jett do anyway? – Monday Monday and a chance to grab a breath after a rather intense couple of weeks and two rather busy shows, two of the three parts of the latest Cultivate month-long Columbia Road Takeover, that and Deptford X and that Can I get A Slice show over at Atom Gallery that opened a week ago… more


Cultivate presents Nothing Is Square at Shipton Street Gallery, East London, November 2019

December was rather quiet, election horrors and the mess left kind of knocked the stuffing out of everyone, there was the and the Art Car Boot Fair Prêt-à-Accrocher flashy flash thing that put a rather warm full stop at the end of a most excellent 2019 Art Car Boot Fair adventure that took us to Kings Cross and Margate during the year, we kind of hunkered down after that and worried about the horrors of Boris and Brexit and more importantly, climate change


Marton Nemes at Annka Kultys Gallery, East London, October 2019

2020 is looking like it might be a tough one, in terms of art in London it really is becoming tougher in terms of actual space and reasonable rent, Appear Here are hoovering up everything and making it impossible to do anything with the empty spaces that are still there. Artists coming together to put on shows is fast becoming a thing of the past, way way harder to do it now than it was ten years ago, even three or four years ago. and right now art really does need to be that force for good that Sean Scully talks of – it needs to be a force for good on a local level, it needs to be part of the community, it needs to speak, it needs to smile, it needs to be defiant, it needs to embrace – if we don’t have engaging art then what do we have? Bring on the roaring twenties then, bring on more art, more thought, more engagement, more making a stand, more more more, and if no one else is going to document it then I guess we have to do so. I wasn’t that excited by the Turner Prize artists this year, until they came together, the coming together like they did, the forming of a collective was a delicious end to the year and the decade,,,. on with it all, art excites (Sean Worrall)


Whitecross Street Party, July 2019, London EC1


Yulia Robinson at Cultivate, November 2019


Frieze London, 2019, Sterling Ruby, (Gagosian)






3 thoughts on “ORGAN THING: The London art year, 2019, the best of it? Exciting? Underwhelming? Conflicted? Transforming? Engaging? Aloof? Marton, Sterling, Tracey, Pez…

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