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.
- 19 March — 25 September 2016 *on now
This archive display brings together rarely seen material from a 90’s mail art project featuring artists such as Jeremy Deller, Martin Creed, Peter Doig, Chris Ofili and Fiona Banner.
From 1993 until 1998 a group of Londoners, loosely affiliated to the artworld, would open their post to discover some surprising documents – a crumpled piece of paper
a transcription of the graffiti in the men’s toilets at the British Library
an exam paper for failed artists. The anonymous sender was curator Matthew Higgs. His curatorial platform was the A5 envelope
his production studio, the photocopier.
Higgs, now director of White Columns in New York, is an artist, writer and pioneering curator. Having witnessed the phenomenal rise of young British artists in the early 1990s, he contacted those he knew and admired and invited them to make a work for his mail art project, Imprint 93.
This is the first time that every edition of Imprint 93 is on display and features a stellar line-up of artists including Billy Childish, Martin Creed, Jeremy Deller, Peter Doig, Ceal Floyer, Alan Kane, Elizabeth Peyton, Chris Ofili, Bob and Roberta Smith, Jessica Voorsanger and Stephen Willats. It is a reunion that reveals the conceptual poetics, satirical bite and entrepreneurial brio of a seminal generation of artists.
- Family friendly
Imperfect Chronology: Mapping the Contemporary I
- 24 April — 14 August 2016 *on now
The Barjeel Art Foundation holds an extensive collection of art from the Arab world. This display looks at the rise of media-based practices among a generation of artists who emerged in the 1990s.
Dealing with issues of migration, the aftermath of war and media representations of history and culture, artists such as Lebanon-born Walid Raad (b. 1967) and Akram Zaatari (b. 1966) construct real and imagined archives out of Beirut and Cairo, while Yto Barrada (b. 1971) maps and photographs her hometown of Tangier tracking border crossings and those who hope for a better life across the Mediterranean.
Edwina Ashton: In The Winter Hours
- 26 April — 14 August 2016 *on now
Drawing inspiration from 19th century novels and natural history illustrations, British artist Edwina Ashton (b. 1965) presents darkly humorous films, drawings and sculptures.
Renowned for her interest in animals, zoology and our perceptions of nature, the artist uses her invented creatures to explore human emotions, foibles and world-views. Her characters emerge from sketches, overheard conversations and experiments with second-hand materials. Most of her creatures appear in films and occasionally they appear in public.
Ashton is fascinated by how animals think, how language shapes our world and how materials suggest the imaginary. While recognising that humans are animals, she explores the subtle relationships between them, interweaving scientific and poetic sensibilities.
- Family friendly
Karin Sander, Igor Jesus and Igor Bošnjak
- 7 June — 7 August 2016 *on now
A selection of artists’ film focusing on materiality. German-based Karin Sander (b. 1957) loops a 1930s reel, where the stains and scratches on the original celluloid bounce like the child’s ball in the footage.
POV (2015) by Portuguese artist Igor Jesus (b.1989) captures a speaker plummeting from the sky as the landscape unravels around it, while EUtopia (2015–16) tracks the contours of an oil painting by Bosnian artist Igor Bošnjak (b.1981) as if it were another planet.
Artists’ Film International is a collaborative project established by the Whitechapel Gallery in 2008, featuring film, video and animation from around the world. A partnership between 16 global partner organisations, the programme brings together recent works which are presented over the course of a year in each venue.
Mary Heilmann: Looking at Pictures
- 8 June — 21 August 2016 *on now
The surreal beach life of Los Angeles, 1960s counter culture, pop songs and friendships with New York artists, poets and musicians are the well springs of Mary Heilmann’s dazzling abstractions.
Heilmann (b. 1940) takes colour, line and shape on unexpected journeys. Polka dots waft across eye-popping hues corralled within irregular rectangles. The poetry of her works lies in the tension between the rigours of geometry and the contingencies of the human and the organic.
The exhibition begins with paintings based on the square, the grid and architectural details, such as The First Vent (1972). They are juxtaposed with glazed ceramics, hovering between painting and sculpture. A slide show, Her Life (2006), features Heilmann’s paintings and personal photographs set to an eclectic mix of music.
- Family friendly
Keith Sonnier: Light Works, 1968–70
- 10 June — 11 September 2016 *on now
Making three-dimensional drawings with neon, American artist Keith Sonnier (b.1941) bathes spaces and bodies in the radiance of coloured light. Coming of age with a group of artists that included Lynda Benglis, Mary Heilmann, Bruce Nauman and Richard Serra, he uses a post-minimalist language that is physically immediate yet associative. American critic Donald Kuspit remarks, ‘Sonnier’s sculpture attracts our attention, like semaphore signals from a strange zone of feeling’.
Four major early neon works made between 1968 and 1970 transform the 19th-century architecture of the Gallery. ‘Neon has always been a material in signage that one lays flat, and one in fact writes with. But I began to lift it from the board, and pull out into space, and use it in a much more three-dimensional form’. He combines neon with other industrial materials like glass, foam rubber and wiring. Geometric form contrasts with dashes of colour and a luminous glow to suggest the syntax of poetry and a nod to Sonnier’s roots in the multi-lingual, Creole culture of Louisiana.
- Family friendly
77-82 Whitechapel High Street
020 7522 7888
020 7377 1685