South London has a rich and vital contemporary art scene, as demonstrated in this list of the borough’s contemporary galleries. Some have been a mainstay in the arts scene for a long period of time, while others have burst onto the scene in recent years. Essentially, all these galleries included play an active role in their respective communities: enriching the lives of local residents. Here are 10 of the best spaces in South London for contemporary art.
Gasworks is a vibrant hub of experimentation and innovation, and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. What makes Gasworks unique is its membership with Triangle Network. This is an international network which enables artists and art organisations within the contemporary visual arts field to exchange ideas, as well as sharing skills and experiences. Therefore, Gasworks is deeply committed to nurturing UK and international artists, allowing them space to express their ideas. Indeed, Gasworks hosts 16 residences a year, and open studios to allow visitors to witness up close the process of an artist at work. Talks and seminars are also held to supplement the residencies. Usually, there are four mains exhibitions every year – always worth checking out.
It may come as a surprise that Eltham College, an independent school, has made a concrete contribution to the contemporary art scene in south east London. Yet it has, thanks to the addition of Gerald Moore Gallery, which was built in 2012 on the school’s grounds. Influenced by its scholastic settings, the gallery hosts artist-run programmes for all age groups. Additionally it provides the South London Network of Artist Teachers (SLNAT), which allows art educators to share teaching practices. The last exhibition – featuring Turner Prize nominees – explored how trees are still able to be a source of inspiration for contemporary artists. All their exhibitions are free entry.
Housed in a grade II listed building, with Camberwell Arts College, South London Art Gallery and Goldsmiths College all located nearby, GX Gallery is handily placed in the historic Camberwell area. There are two floors, both dedicated to exhibiting contemporary fine art. The gallery represents various artists such as Stefano Paliocchi, Ed Gray and Michael Sole. Additionally, there is an upcoming exhibition featuring pop artist Sir Peter Blake. In August, GX is hosting the Annual Flock event, which showcases artworks by BA graduates from leading London Art Schools. Ultimately, GX is keen to engage with painters, printers and photographers and explore the role they play in the contemporary art scene.
CGP London – founded in the early 1980s by the Bermondsey Artists’ Group – manages both Cafe Gallery and Dilston Grove in Southwark Park. An important part of its mission statement is to develop strong community relationship via exhibitions, talks and education programmes. Examples of artists who have been exhibited here are David Blandy, Gailia Kollectiv and Matt Collishaw. Dilston Grove is particularly interesting as it was previously Clare College Mission Church. Yet the Gothic grade II listed building is now used as a creative space for visceral experimental works and installations.
Katharina Grosse presented 'This Drove my Mother up the Wall' at SLG in 2017 | Photo: Andy Keate
South London Gallery in Peckham is an essential venue in the borough’s contemporary arts scene. It has a strong association with BritArt scene, however it does have an internationalist perspective as well. For example, recently the ‘Welcome to Iraq’ exhibition was well-received for showing an insight into the workings of contemporary artist in Iraq. The gallery is publicly funded so therefore the exhibitions – five a year – are free.
Rufus Knight-Webb, primarily an abstract painter, created this gallery in 2012. This bright commercial space has a varied programme consisting of experienced artists – many of them overseas. However, with it being based opposite Brixton Village, the gallery can take advantage of new exciting and talented local artists. It currently represents 14 artists, whose works range from street art to recycled sculptures and abstract paintings. Examples of the gallery’s roster includes the important mystical painter Juliane Hundertmark, Afro Expressionist painter Adjani from Cameroon and Vivien Zhang, who Saatchi Gallery praised as artist to watch in 2013. Fundamentally though, the work Knight Webb Gallery does in broadening the reach of key Brixton artist is hugely commendable.
‘Poppable’ 2013 exhibition of paintings by Adjan, Courtesy Knight Webb Gallery
Danielle Arnaud contemporary art
If you fancy checking out some contemporary art out in a beautiful Georgian house, then this is the place for you. Ostensibly, the Danielle Arnaud gallery seeks to buck the commercial trend and provide visitors with an unique experience. Danielle Arnaud, by using her house as an exhibition space, seeks to challenge the tradition that artwork can only be considered art if its exhibited in an art gallery. This charming, furnished domestic space is therefore a refreshing change from the usual white cube setting. The gallery has been part of the Lambeth art scene since 1995, showcasing young and emerging artists from across the globe.
Courtesy the artist and Danielle Arnaud Gallery, London
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Asylum, led by Jo Dennis and Dido Hallett, is an old chapel based in picturesque square in Peckham. The chapel, bombed during the blitz, is a derelict but hugely atmospheric building. This setting, with its original stained windows still intact, is therefore a perfect creative space for contemporary artists. This abandoned chapel has become a real hub of culture, and is available for art experimentation, music, theatre and community events.
This old Edwardian Deptford police station no longer houses criminals, but instead it has been transformed into a DIY arts centre. It is an unique environment for artists to create and display their artworks; in this sense, The Old Police Station is another example of contemporary art occupying abandoned spaces. There are 42 artist studios and independent project spaces available. A heady array of happenings can be found here. For example, one may encounter art installations, exhibitions in police cells, gigs and supper clubs. Never standing still, they also run another space – a strip of ten galleries – in Depford nearby called Enclave.