Gallery Haunt in Central London

The only thing to do in London is visit art galleries.  At least that's what I do, every time I touch down. London is rife with galleries showcasing some of the best and brightest international artists and it doesn't cost a penny to view their work.  This time around I visited some of my old standards, but also did some digging to find out where the best contemporary art is housed.  I happened upon some beautiful pieces by my old favourites but also walked unknowingly into one of the best exhibits I've ever seen in my life.  Ahh London, a fantastic place for an art adventure.

Nestled in a very tony part of town, Saatchi Gallery is just a quick skip away from Sloane Square tube station.  This was the first gallery I visited and definitely one of the highlights. The gallery consists of several floors of airy rooms dedicated to an exhibit called 'Pangaea II: New Art From Africa and Latin America'.   The most powerful was a room filled with stunning large-scale graphite drawings of trees by Diego Medoza Imbachi intermixed with these delicate, little mixed media tree sculptures by Jorge Mayet.  His sculptures were suspended from invisible wire and they rotated ever so slightly in the breezy gallery air. As a lover of trees, this room took my breath away.

De Mis Vivos y Mis Muertos - Jorge MayetElectrical Wire, Paper, Acrylics, Fabric

For more on Jorge Mayet, check out this link

Solitude - Eddy Ilunga Kamuanga
Acrylic on Canvas

Another welcome surprise came at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, which is situated in a beautiful stretch of Hyde park.   We ventured into an exhibit called 'Boomerang' by Pascale Marthine Tayou.  This Cameroonian artist created a Central African-style marketplace feel with his installation-based art, which was impeccably curated throughout the main rooms of the gallery.  From the minute we walked in, we were confronted with this fresh, luscious scent. Upon inquiry, it turns out that the largest installation which was situated by the front door was stuffed with fresh hay.  It filled the air with emotion and sensation, which may have been an art-accident of sorts.  Whether it was intentional or not, this scent followed us around and really created a wonderful sensory experience. At once both whimsical and profound, Tayou's artistry touched upon topical issues of war, weaponry and resource shortage while taking a uniquely textural approach.  Unfortunately my camera died before I had a chance to take pics, but you can see some images from the exhibit here.  One of the best exhibits I have seen all year and curiously, the artists' first solo exhibit.  Very excited to see what he does next.

Art in unexpected places is always a true find.  I stopped over at The Century Club in Soho for a latte and stumbled upon these fantastic horse x-ray pieces by local artist Toni Gallagher.  Very happening, and big props to The Century Club for excellent curation.

Xanthe - Toni Gallagher
X-Ray/Digital Print Lightbox

Years ago, I had a very serious intro to London art purely by accident.  My 20-something year old self went for a walk during a long layover and meandered into a hidden courtyard.  I saw some interesting window art and ducked inside.  The owner of the gallery, Alan Wheatley, stopped me and said that I was not to go any further until I had checked out the gallery across the street.  I obliged.  That gallery turned out to be the very famous White Cube and the exhibit at the time was by the incredible (and infamous) Tracy Emin.  It was a life-changing experience.  I now go back to Alan Wheatley and White Cube every time I visit London.  This time around, White Cube was a bit of a disappointment.  At the moment they have an exhibit going by Christian Rosa called 'Put Your Eye in Your Mouth', which I was less than thrilled with.  Christian Rosa is being hailed as the new surrealist visionary in London.  I was excited to check him out, but frankly I couldn't see the appeal. Very basic drawings with little to no emotion behind them.  The only thing that I found remotely worthwhile were the doodles in the downstairs lobby, something beautifully dark and unstructured about them.

I stopped over at Alan Wheatley Art to have a chat.  Alan was aimiable as always, ready to chat about the best exhibits in town and give advice on things that I had missed. Alan reps some great artists, one of which is the very famous British pop artist, Clive Barker.  I was seriously lucky this time, because Alan happened to have pulled out a few Clive Barker pieces from his private collection to show a buyer. 

The Last Coke Bottle - Clive Barker
Polished Bronze

On my last day of gallery visits, I decided to hunt down Haunch of Venison which was an exquisitely curated gallery that I visited in London many years ago.  It turns out that Haunch had been repurposed by Christie's as a venue for private sales, but during my internet research I discovered that the gallery owners had opened up a new venture in 2010 called Blain Southern.  An incredible find.  Berlin-based multimedia artist Nassan Tur has his first UK solo exhibit there, and it is an isolating source of immense beauty.  At once both private and very public, the stoic messages of his pieces really resonated throughout this expansive space.  

Crisis - Nassan Tur
Neon and Steel

One of the most powerful pieces of my trip thus far, was Tur's large-scale video work called 'First Shot'.  Comprised of slow-motion footage, the piece shows various participants firing a gun for the first time. This video installation dominated the pitch black room.  I love when art makes you unsure of what you are feeling.  I was thrilled, haunted and passionately moved in equal parts. 

On the way out of Blaine Southern, I glimpsed a small gallery across the road which was showcasing some stark canvases.  Stepping inside Hus Gallery, I was confronted with white on white panels of astounding depth by another Berlin-based artist, Santiago Taccetti

ISO 9001 - Santiago Taccetti

ISO 9001 - Santiago Taccetti

London has this fascinating way of drawing you in, making you beg for more.  I could spend months here and not even begin to touch the surface of art collections and exhibitions in this city.  I find the gallery scene less pretentious than other cities, more welcoming to your average stranger.  I like how it creates this atmosphere of inclusivity, somewhere where anyone can wander an art gallery and tempt the diverse facets of their own imagination.

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