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.
A Utopian Stage: Festival of Arts Shiraz-Persepolis
- 21 April — 4 October 2015 *on now
The ancient Persian ruins of Persepolis were a spectacular backdrop for ‘one of the most adventurous and idiosyncratic festivals in the world’ (Artforum). The Festival of Arts was held around Shiraz, Iran every summer from 1967–1977.
A melting pot of traditional and avant-garde music, theatre and performance, the festival featured artists from both East and West, including the Beatles’ muse, sitar player Ravi Shankar and American composer John Cage, alongside Rwandan drummers and Balinese Gamelan musicians and dancers. Orghast,
a play by poet Ted Hughes and Mahin Tajadod, co-directed by Peter Brook, was staged, while Merce Cunningham’s dancers performed calisthenics among the ruins of Persepolis.
The festival came to an end with the Iranian revolution, but is now brought to life through this display of archive film and photographs, original theatre programmes and posters seen for the first time in the UK.
- Not suitable for children
Artists’ Film International: Spring 2015
- 29 April — 14 July 2015 *on now
This season of artists’ film and video from around the world explores the theme of conflict.
Russian-born, Berlin-based artist Anatoly Shuravlev’s Panic (2011) sees the artist shooting at the walls of a white cube gallery. It represents his violent demonstration against the blank conformity of exhibition spaces.
Vietnamese artist Tran Luong’s Lâp Loè / Welts (2012) is derived from a performance that began in 2007 in which the artist invites an audience to flick his body with a red scarf, an item of historical and political significance associated with Communism.
Vahap Av?ar’s Road to Arguvan (2013) is filmed in the artist’s native Malatya Province, Turkey. It follows a road destroyed by unknown forces, leaving a long jagged rift that renders the road, which was once a major route to the east of the country, seemingly useless.
Max Mara Art Prize for Women: Corin Sworn
- 20 May — 19 July 2015 *on now
Corin Sworn’s new work is inspired by the characters and tales of mistaken identity from the Italian Commedia dell’Arte theatre, performed from the 16th century by touring troupes. These plays and vagabond actors influenced Shakespeare and artists from Goya to Picasso. Sworn’s installation uses performative and theatrical devices – props, lighting and costumes – to retell an infamous story of deception and imposture.
Sworn (b. 1976) lives in Glasgow and is the latest winner of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women, which nurtures female artists based in the UK in making a new work of art following an Italian residency. The judges included Director Iwona Blazwick, artist Runa Islam, gallerist Pilar Corrias, collector Candida Gertler and curator Lisa Le Feuvre.
The London Open 2015
- 15 July — 6 September 2015
The London Open 2015 is the Whitechapel Gallery triennial exhibition. Sculpture, painting, performance, moving image, photography, printmaking and many other media and practices showcase some of the most dynamic work being made across the capital in 2015.
From a record number of 2,133 applicants, 48 artists have been selected by a panel of high profile art world figures, including writer and critic Ben Luke, artist Angela de la Cruz, collector Nicoletta Fiorucci, gallerist Jake Miller and Whitechapel Gallery curators Daniel Herrmann, Eisler Curator and Head of Curatorial Studies and Poppy Bowers, Assistant Curator.
Manual labour and the ways we work is a theme investigated throughout the exhibition. A number of artists use more traditional techniques such as painting and photography whilst others use more unconventional methods from bricklaying to using panes of glass in their practice to explore the world today. The exhibition includes a fully functioning fishmonger’s counter in the galleries by multi-media Sam Curtis, a brick sculpture built on site by artist Demelza Watt’s father and a tense video work by Nelmarie du Preez of a robotic arm programmed by the artist to stab a knife between her fingers.
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