The Whitechapel Art Gallery was founded in 1901 to bring great art to the people of east London. Internationally acclaimed for its exhibitions of modern and contemporary art and its pioneering education and public events programmes, the Gallery has premiered international artists such as Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Nan Goldin, and provided a showcase for Britain’s most significant artists from Gilbert & George to Lucian Freud, Peter Doig to Mark Wallinger.
The Gallery plays a unique role in the capital’s cultural landscape and is pivotal to the continued growth of East London as the world’s most vibrant contemporary art quarter.
The Grade II* Whitechapel Gallery was designed by architect Charles Harrison Townsend. This purpose built gallery is an outstanding example of the Arts and Crafts movement and its aspirations of being accessible, spiritually uplifting and transformative. This development also builds on the 1980s expansion by Colquhoun and Miller under the directorship of Sir Nicolas Serota and inaugurated by the Queen Mother.
Barjeel Art Foundation Collection: Imperfect Chronology – Debating Modernism I
- 8 September — 6 December 2015 *on now
Continuing the Whitechapel Gallery’s programme opening up rarely seen art collections for everyone, a series of four chronological displays launching this September highlights works from the Barjeel Art Foundation’s rich collection. Artists from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and elsewhere in the region tell the story of Arab art from the modern to the contemporary period.
This first display of works explores the emergence and subsequent development of an Arab art aesthetic through drawings and paintings from the early twentieth century to 1967, an important historical period in the region.
Display highlights include a portrait painting of a young woman in profile by Armenian-Egyptian artist Ervand Demirdjian titled Nubian Girl, which is believed to be one of the earliest works in the collection made between 1900 – 10.
An early career painting by Dia Azzawi, recognised as one of Iraq’s most influential living artists, is also on show alongside Kadhim Hayder’s painting of symbolic white horses titled Fatigued Ten Horses Converse with Nothing (The Martyrs Epic) (1965).
The display ends with Hamed Ewais’s Le Guardien de la vie (1967-8), a large-scale oil painting that depicts a fighter, weapon in hand, while underneath him everyday events such as a wedding taking place and a child riding a bike are shown, suggesting the possibility of societal renewal following the collapse of the Pan-Arab ideal after the Six-Day War in 1967.
- Any age
Artists’ Film International: Autumn 2015
- 30 September 2015 — 24 January 2016 *on now
This season of artists’ film from around the world includes Diego Tonus’ (Italy) Speculative Speeches (Workers of the World – Relax) (2012), based on conversations recorded by the artist exploring how the voice is used in teaching, business and politics to influence an audience.
While Lee Kai Chung’s (Hong Kong) The History of Riot (The DJ) (2013), refers to the 1967 riots in Hong Kong and the assassination of anticommunist radio commentator Lam Bun.
Srdjan Keca’s (Serbia) Museum of the Revolution (2014) records the derelict state of the Belgrade museum built as a symbol of socialist Yugoslavia and its abandoned underground spaces which are now home to an alternative community.
Piotr Wysocki & Dominik Ja?owinski’s (Poland) Run Free (2011) documents a workshop that the artists organised with policemen and young men in Radom, Poland. By re-enacting a 1976 workers riot, the artists encouraged the warring groups to collaborate, inviting them to choreograph a routine based on police tactics and free running.
Yama Rahimi’s (Afghanistan) Creation Song (2014) juxtaposes footage of a cemetery with images of a stonemason chiselling headstones and explores rituals of mourning, burial and renewal.
- Any age
Emily Jacir: Europa
- 30 September 2015 — 3 January 2016 *on now
This first UK survey of artist Emily Jacir focuses on her dialogue with Europe, Italy and the Mediterranean in particular. Known for her poignant works of art that are as poetic as they are political and biographical, Jacir explores histories of migration, resistance and exchange.
Highlights include heratmospheric film Lydda Airport (2009), set in the 1930s and inspired by a story told to the artist by Salim Tamari whose father recounted waiting at the airport (now known as Ben Gurion) to greet and welcome aviator Amelia Earhart who never arrived.
- Any age
Intellectual Barbarians: The Kibbo Kift Kindred
- 10 October 2015 — 13 June 2016 *on now
This archive display features rare woodcarvings, furniture, ceremonial dress designs and photographs of the English organisation The Kibbo Kift Kindred (1920-1932).
Formed by the artist, writer and pacifist John Hargrave after becoming disillusioned with the Boy Scout movement, the Kibbo Kift philosophy was based on a shared appreciation of nature and handicraft, as well as a commitment to world peace. Though small in number, notable members of the group included suffragettes, scientists and the novelist H.G.Wells.
A 1929 exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery was a way of spreading their ideas, and this display reveals their remarkable aesthetic drawn from ancient Egyptian, Anglo-Saxon, Celtic and Native American crafts, dress and language. Through revealing photographs and footage of the group on parades and camping trips, this display presents not only a forgotten moment in British social movements but a futuristic vision which continues to resonate today.
- Any age
Luke Fowler and Mark Fell Project
- 30 October 2015 — 7 February 2016 *on now
The computer is a ubiquitous component in today’s music studios and on stage. Using sound, text and image, the new collaboration between Glasgow-based artist filmmaker Luke Fowler (b. 1978) and Sheffield-based multidisciplinary artist Mark Fell (b. 1966) examines the development of early computer music languages that have been obscured by more commercially viable options.
The exhibition looks at how the use of computers began to shape music-making through experimentation with unfamiliar techniques involving mathematical structures, data and unusual forms of interaction. These methods are buried deep in the archaeological sub strata of today’s electronic music. Working across visual arts and music, the display becomes a tool for local students to experiment with computer-based composition.
- Any age
Barjeel Art Foundation Collection: Imperfect Chronology – Debating Modernism II
- 15 December 2015 — 17 April 2016
Debating Modernism II focuses on figurative works of art in the Barjeel Art Collection produced between 1968 and 1987.
This second display starts with an ink and pencil drawing Erotic Composition (1967-70), by Lebanese artist Huguette Caland which is a study for the abstract, sensual paintings of the body that she created later on in her career.
In The Three Palestinian Boys (1970) by Marwan Kassab Bachi, the unique perspective shows only two of the three boys in full in the painting, suggesting the third has met a tragic fate.
Also on show are silkscreens by influential artist and writer Kamal Boullata, which depict Islamic calligraphy as colourful patterns. The texts written on the silkscreens are statements such as La Ana Illa Ana (There is No ‘I’ but ‘I’) (1983), a play on the Islamic saying ‘There is No God but God’ which challenges the notion that Arabic script is always Islamic when it is visually represented.
- Any age
- 29 January — 15 May 2016
In January 2016, the Whitechapel Gallery presents Electronic Superhighway, a landmark exhibition exploring the impact of computer and networked technologies on artists from the mid-1960s to the present day.
The exhibition includes new and rarely seen multimedia works, film, painting, sculpture, photography and drawing by over 60 artists including Cory Arcangel, Roy Ascott, Jeremy Bailey, Judith Barry, James Bridle, Constant Dullaart, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Oliver Laric, Vera Molnar, Trevor Paglen, Nam June Paik, Ryan Trecartin and Ulla Wiggen, telling the story of an interconnected global culture marked by mass social and political change.
- Any age
- 18 March — 17 July 2016
This new exhibition explores the cultural and historical background of graphic narrative and how we tell stories in pictures. Taking us from the world’s oldest comic to Donald Duck and Dr Dread, Comic Invention also reveals new material central to the history of comics.
Looking at the graphic narrative in its widest sense, the exhibition showcases treasures from The Hunterian and beyond, from the ancient Greeks to Hogarth and contemporary items.
Comic Invention also highlights a very important but little known work called The Glasgow Looking Glass of 1825 (pictured). Arguably the world’s oldest comic, it predates titles like Punch by sixteen years.
- Any age
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