Today we are joined by guest blogger Julia Little who recently went on one of Hymie Dunn’s East London Art Tours and loved it, so we asked if she would review the tour for us here. Over to you Julia….
“I have a deep affection for East London. The history, the people, the food, the fashion, and of course, the art. You only have to walk the streets to be blown away by the huge displays of street art and clashing architecture in an ever changing area. Of course, many would say that art is moving back to the West End with galleries opening in Fitzrovia and the surrounding areas. But the huge creative heart of East London is still beating and continues to produce some wonderful exhibitions, you just have to find them.
And what better way than to have a guided tour of some of the galleries and art spaces you perhaps won’t have heard of or didn’t know existed? I joined the lovely Hymie Dunn on one of her East London Art Tours, discovered some amazing art spaces and met some inspiring artists. As we went round, I asked her a few questions….
Hymie, how did you start East London Art Tours and what are you aiming to offer people?
‘I see my role as partly an editor. I treat each tour as a unique curated visit, taking the fear out of entering some of these spaces alone and to help people navigate around a new part of London to save them time consulting google maps on every street corner only to find the show has ended or the gallery is closed. I can also offer access to spaces that are not open to the public and give behind the scenes tours. It is quite research intensive, but I love it and have worked in various private galleries, Whitechapel Gallery and then the British Council since the early 90’s. I have freelanced since 2001 which have included projects for the British Arts Council and Tate Britain.’
Do you just cover East London?
‘A lot of my tours are in this area – Mile End, Bethnal Green, Hackney Wick, Stepney, Shoreditch, Hoxton, Spitalfields, Deptford and Docklands. Sometimes Vauxhall, Borough, Bloomsbury and Farringdon. These are the oldest areas of London and steeped in history as well as currently being the most vibrant.’
Our tour started at the White Cube Bermondsey. Agreed, not exactly a hidden away art space, more of a statement, ‘here I am’ kind of gallery, with it’s 70’s architecture, clean lines and incredible light. Andreas Gursky is exhibiting here until July. See his large scale digital photographs featuring huge aerial perspectives as well as a new series of images inspired by Hollywood comic-book heroes set in isolated and idealized landscape settings.
We moved onto Vitrine Gallery , a small, private gallery currently showcasing Edwin Burdis’ full sized, hardboard cutout and painted figures, Plumbers.
Then to the wonderful Drawing Room A beautiful art space, library and artists’ studios. It’s an independent gallery which also offers occasional opportunities to buy works and allows the public to use its well stocked, specialist library (call ahead first). Aleksandra Mir was just opening her exhibition when we arrived, which focuses on the fast-developing London skyline and explores drawing as a collective activity with her team of ten assistants.
We watched as they worked on huge specialist canvases, using only black ‘Sharpies,’ to create a 4 metre high mural. Upstairs we saw visiting artists David Austen and Mike Armitage as they worked in their studios. Both were totally charming and told us of the pieces they were working on and what had inspired them.
Finally, a hop on a bus to Spitalfields to visit Raven Row. This beautiful gallery is housed in two Georgian buildings just off Artillery Lane. Owned by Alex Sainsbury, Raven Row is an old Huguenot merchant house – a fabulous space and shows a great mix of contemporary art, textile and sculpture exhibitions. The current group exhibition is curated by Michael Bracewell and called ‘Play What’s Not There’. Using established artists, he explores links between visual arts, music, modern iconography and sub-cultures.
This completed our tour right in the heart of Spitalfields, so we could explore the shops, cafes and Whitechapel Gallery at our leisure. At that point, my friend and I exited left and popped into Angela Flander’s shop on Artillery Row and spent the next half hour deciding which perfume was coming home with us! So, if you have an interest in observing new developments in art in London, counter-cultures AND walking, look no further than ELAT. Hymie can give private tours too, perfect for your specialist area, A’Level or Degree students, family friendly days, small company groups, or collector buyers. She will even find you the best coffee and cake shops in the city for a well earned mid-tour break!