Whitechapel Gallery

The front of the Gallery

I visited the Whitechapel Gallery on the day of my Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park visit, as I had some time to kill. The Gallery, founded in 1901, is a public museum of modern and contemporary art, and hosts a number of changing exhibitions throughout the year. The current exhibitions are in place until 30 Aug, except for the London Open which runs until 6 September, and A Utopian Stage which is on until 4 October.

When I visited, the London Open 2015 was the major exhibition on display, a triennial open submission show including innovative and contemporary art in a number of formats. The exhibits were certainly varied and to be honest they didn’t really appeal to me, although I thought the brick sculpture built by artist Demelza Watts and her bricklayer father Brian was quite sweet, and I did quite like Eva Stenram’s strange altered photographs.

Following on from this, I entered the room containing the Children’s Commission 2015 by Rivane Neuenschwander, a Brazilian artist who has created outfits to explore childhood fears, collectively entitled The Name of Fear. I found some of these outfits fun to look at and rather enlightening; fears ranged from “heights” and “bees” to “nightmares” and “silence”.

In the next section, James Richards selects from the V-A-C collection, Richard’s presentation from the V-A-C collection in Moscow focuses on Francis Bacon’s Study for a Portrait (1953) and is entitled To Replace a Minute’s Silence With a Minute’s Applause. It is a rather bizarre sound installation, made up of “silences”, the gaps in between speech, suspenseful pauses in films, church bells and acts of mourning and remembrance. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of all this, but I did find it rather unsettling.

In the screening room, the Artists’ Film International: Summer 2015 includes film by Eduardo Basualdo, Tanya Busse & Emilija Ŝkarnulytė, Brigid McCaffrey & Pallavi Paul. I stayed in here for a few minutes, mainly I admit to have a rest, but I found the film on show engaging and oddly dreamy.

The Archive room was displaying an exhibition entitled A Utopian Stage: Festival of Arts Shiraz-Persepolis. For me this was probably the most interesting exhibition in the Gallery. It looked at the Festival of Arts held in Iran, against the backdrop of the ancient Persian ruins of Persepolis, between 1967 and 1997. It was described by Artforum as “one of the most adventurous and idiosyncratic festivals in the world”, featuring artists from both East and West, and the artefacts on display, including leaflets, posters, programmes and photographs, help to convey something of this.

It’s definitely impressive to have a gallery of this calibre in east London, and it’s an example of how it’s always worth looking beyond central London to get your art fix. The exhibits are thoughtfully curated and would certainly appeal to fans of modern art. Personally, I doubt I’ll be visiting again unless there’s an exhibition I really want to see: I prefer more “traditional” art if I’m honest.

By the way, the café is very nice; I had a very pleasant cup of tea there, and the cakes looked good too.


Address: 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London, E1 7QX

Website: whitechapelgallery.org

Opening Hours: Tues-Sun 11am-6pm, late opening Thurs until 9pm, closed Mon.

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