POP stars

Exploring the ultra-transitory world of art by Jessica Cusack

Pop Up Galleries London ugly duck

in the wake of the world’s most expensive piece of art – Picasso’s ‘Women of Algiers (Version 0)’ – being sold at Christie’s in May for a cool £115 million, viewing and buying art seems out of reach for many of us mere mortals. But it doesn’t have to be that way. All over London, pop-up art galleries are, well, popping up, breaking down the barriers between artist and viewer and making art more accessible for everyone.

Ugly Duck
Ugly Duck take over vacant buildings in London and re-use them for creative purposes. Based in Bermondsey but with spaces across the city, Ugly Duck (formally known as 47/49 after their Tanner Street location) is a social enterprise which allows artists to create in a new context and reach out to previously untapped audiences. They firmly believe in art as a vehicle for social change through its unique ability to bring people from across the social spectrum together in one space. Ranging from The Factory, with its exposed brickwork and multi-coloured rooms to The Testing Works, a small museum filled with original Victorian engineering machinery, it’s little wonder that the folk at Ugly Duck felt compelled to re-inhabit these incredible disused buildings.

Pop Up Galleries London

Some of their past and near future events and exploits include:

Butterfly Theatre presents As You Like It
COMING SOON: August 8th & 9th
Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ but as you’ve never seen it! Set at a music festival, the Forest of Arden. This is a promenade piece where the audience walk around following the action. The audience will be invited to sing, dance, play or just be witness to the hilarity of our very confused twenty something’s as they seek love.

Butterfly inspire their audiences to open their ears, eyes and hearts differently. To experience things they see, smell, touch, taste and hear in new and unexpected ways. Butterfly perform in extraordinary locations and respond to the entire venue whether it’s an underground cave, crumbling castle, historic forest or an original warehouse in London.

Pop Up Galleries London

Plastic Lunch
April-June 2014
A pop-up arts project which aimed to draw attention to the vast quantities of plastic waste which pollute our oceans. This project took place on the rooftop of 47/49 Tanner Street, which overlooks the eastward bound train lines going in and out of London Bridge.

City Hunt
September 2014
The game was played by around 1,000 people over the course of a week. The project was a part of Southwark Council’s Blackfriars Stories programme, celebrating life along the Blackfriars Mile, a stretch of road which is currently underused and in need of a bit of creative revitalisation!

Pop Up Galleries London ugly duck

South East Open Studios
The notions of collaboration and accessibility, which Ugly Duck hold so dear, are also the founding principals of South East Open Studios. Based just outside of London, SEOS allows members of the public to visit the studios of artists and craftspeople every June – this year’s event runs from the 5th-21st. The benefits are reciprocal for both the artist and the public. The public get the chance to actually meet and talk to artists whose work they admire or are interested in purchasing – a luxury not afforded by many galleries in London in which the creators remain faceless. The artists all get the chance to really sell their pieces in their own words, providing interesting backstories of inspiration which may seal the deal. A break from the solitary life of an ‘artiste’ is no bad thing either.

“there is something more exciting about going somewhere which might not exist tomorrow

Whitechapel Gallery
Enjoying art as a collective seems to be a theme throughout these innovative art experiences, and Whitechapel Gallery’s First Thursdays contributes to this endeavour. On the first Thursday of every month, over 150 galleries in London put on free exhibitions, events and workshops during a special late opening. Participants can either follow the online map or join one of the free bus or walking tours on the day, and gain a new insight into London through these lesser-known creative spaces.

Pop Up Galleries London ugly duck

Upcoming highlights include a Modigliani exhibition, which is on at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art until 28th June. What better way to spend a balmy summer evening than by discovering little known galleries housing incredible art, or listening to a curator speak exclusively about the creative process of the exhibition in which you stand? If you fancy making a holiday of it, the Venice Art Crawl www.veniceartcrawl.com, which holds events throughout the year in California, serves a similar purpose to First Thursdays.

Fundamentally, it’s the impermanence of these pop-ups which make them so exciting. And their ephemeral nature can’t be bad for business either, encouraging potential buyers to snap up their wares before it all disappears and through the presence of the artists themselves, which fosters more of a connection between the consumer and the artwork.

More simply, however, these events just make for a great day or evening out. London in particular is caught in a pop-up craze. From cinemas to restaurants to beauty salons, there is something so much more exciting about going somewhere which might not exist by the morning. One could argue that in this digital age, where you’re only as good as your last Instagram post, it’s nice to go somewhere a little different. And variety is the spice of life.

Pop Up Galleries London ugly duck

Photographs courtesy of Ugly Duck

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