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Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota launches Peer gallery in Hoxton Street

PUBLISHED: 08:03 18 April 2016 | UPDATED: 08:03 18 April 2016

Angela De La Cruz's installation at Peer, Larger Than Life, Photo Chris Dorley Brown

Angela De La Cruz's installation at Peer, Larger Than Life, Photo Chris Dorley Brown

Chris Dorley-Brown

A gallery aiming to make contemporary art “less scary” has undergone a £140,000 revamp, complete with a clock tower in Hoxton Street which will be designed by a new artist each year.

Ingrid, Jo and Bruce beside the bird boxesIngrid, Jo and Bruce beside the bird boxes

Sir Nicholas Serota, director of The Tate art galleries and museums, dubbed the most influential man in the contemporary art world, attended the launch of Peer’s new gallery space in Hoxton Street last Wednesday night.

He was joined by notable artists like Yinka Shonibare, Bob and Roberta Smith and 90-year-old Gustav Metzger who developed the auto-constructive art and Art Strike Movements in the 60s.

Based in Hackney for the past 20 years, Peer’s remit has been to bring world class contemporary art to the high street, and the charity is classed as one of the Arts Council’s 730 national portfolio organisations.

The revamp has seen the re-landscaping of public space in front of the gallery, and a new 10m double glazed façade linking up two shopfronts.

Peer's clocktower starts ticking at 7.55pm as sun sets on Wednesday night. Photo Emma BartholomewPeer's clocktower starts ticking at 7.55pm as sun sets on Wednesday night. Photo Emma Bartholomew

The crowd watched on as the sun set at 7.55pm and the clock - designed by Turner Prize winner Chris Ofili - began to work.

A large-scale permanent installation made up of over 200 bird and insect boxes modelled on the social housing the area by London Fieldworks artists Bruce and Jo, is also part of it and Turner Prize nominee Angela De La Cruz is the first to exhibit in the new gallery space, where her 10x12m painting Larger than Life, originally made for the Ballroom of the Royal Festival Hall in 1998, has been squeezed into a 5x7m space.

Peer’s director, Ingrid Swenson, told the Gazette: “Before this was quite a threatening place, the seating had been removed as it attracted street drinkers and it was used as a urinal - Peer was set back from the road buried and lost behind a poorly designed bit of public space.

“Having the new façade and re-landscaped front and makes us more visible and welcoming and being next to the post office is good for us as it gets lots of traffic all the time, it means people can post a letter and see what’s on at Peer.

Angela De La Cruz's installation at Peer, Larger Than Life, Photo Chris Dorley BrownAngela De La Cruz's installation at Peer, Larger Than Life, Photo Chris Dorley Brown

“Now we are just going to carry on with our job of having very good exhibitions for local people, we want people to feel it’s their gallery.”

Ingrid, who commissioned Martin Creed’s first neon art work ‘Everything is Going to be alright’ which appeared on an abandoned building in Lower Clapton in 1998, wants to break down the barriers that some people might feel towards contemporary art.

“Often people have a certain apprehension and they feel it’s not for them,” she explained.

“Maybe they don’t feel they have the knowledge to engage with it, it isn’t sometimes easy to understand, but what I hope to do is to provoke curiosity from people and we are very happy to have these conversations with local people who want to visit.

“What I would like to hope is that if people feel more comfortable entering a gallery on their local high street, they might become more curious and see what’s on at the Tate.

“With Angela De La Cruz’s work you can’t even enter the gallery because it’s too big, it’s about toying with ideas in a playful way, contemporary art can be exciting.

“It’s a painting that’s turned into a sculpture, because it’s crumpled.

“I like the idea that for our opening exhibition she has produced something that’s comical, and I hope in a way it’s also emblematic about what Peer is trying to do, we are small but we are also quite big for our size, if you see what I mean, I think that’s what she’s saying with that work.”


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