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Guest post: A guide to art galleries in East London

If there’s one thing that East London has in abundance, it’s art galleries. With well over 100 to choose from, there are enough to keep ardent art lovers going for years.

The fantastic First Thursdays initiative offers a wonderful way to dip your toe into East London’s art scene for free, but if you’re just looking to amble along to a couple after work or while on a short break in London, here’s a brief introduction to some of the best.

Barbican, Silk Street, EC2
Okay, so everyone knows about the Barbican, but it would feel a little strange talking about galleries in East London without mentioning it. This is the place to go if you want to see works by huge international artists before taking in a film, concert or dance performance – it really is a great all-round arts venue.

Whitechapel Gallery, Whitechapel High Street, E1
Another big player, Whitechapel Gallery is the organiser of the aforementioned First Thursdays scheme and also awards the well-respected Max Mara Art Prize for Women. Lots of big names have exhibited here and the venue holds many fascinating talks, workshops, children’s events and more throughout the year.

Chisenhale Gallery, Chisenhale Road, E3
You might come across the next big thing if you visit Chisenhale Gallery. This vibrant space housed in a converted 1930s factory prides itself on hosting exhibitions highlighting the work of new artists. Look out for displays of art by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Amalia Pica later this year.

Limehouse Gallery, Docklands, E14
Limehouse Gallery provides the opportunity to see some quite frankly amazing bronze sculptures right next to where they were made. Sharing a site with the Bronze Age Sculpture Foundry, the venue showcases works by artists in the UK and the rest of Europe. It also occasionally exhibits paintings, stone carvings and art in other media.

Viktor Wynd Fine Art, Mare Street, E8
Now for something completely different. Quirky, delightful and sometimes shocking, the exhibitions at Viktor Wynd Fine Art aim to promote an eclectic range of artists – upcoming events include an ancient Egypt-inspired display of work by James Putnam and an exhibition relating to the late Sebastian Horsley, who once attempted a crucifixion to inspire his painting. Viktor Wynd himself is an artist who helps run The Last Tuesday Society, which holds spectacular balls and parties, as well as lectures delving into all kinds of weird and wonderful subjects.

Wapping Project, Wapping Hydraulic Power Station, E1
The setting of this arts centre is just as fascinating as the exhibitions it holds. The Wapping Project has preserved much of the interiors of the original 19th-century power station it’s housed in, treating visitors to chains, pipes, brick walls and other industrial features against which all kinds of art are displayed. A restaurant and bar can also be found onsite, so this could be a great destination for a full day out in East London.

Matt’s Gallery, Copperfield Road, E3
The well-respected Matt’s Gallery has a reputation for commissioning installations that go on to achieve considerable fame. Perhaps the best known of these is the engine oil-soaked 20:50 by Richard Wilson, which is the Saatchi Gallery’s only permanent installation. The gallery is a definite must-visit for art that really makes you think.

Vyner Street Gallery, Vyner Street, E2
Vyner Street Gallery is another venue ideal for discovering new talent. Specialising in student and graduate exhibitions, this is perfect for seeing what the cutting edge of contemporary art looks like. Who knows? You might end up purchasing an artwork that’s worth a small fortune in a few years’ time!

This is just a handful of the wonderful art galleries you can visit in East London. Post your recommendations in the comments below.

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Friday, sunshine, stuff to do in East London this weekend

Thank god for the sun shining today. I thought I had lived here long enough that the weather no longer affected my mood, but what a difference a bit of sun makes to the public morale. Strangers smiling, opening doors for each other, commenting on the drunkeness of a pair of teenagers stumbling across Mare Street. It was utterly, utterly heartwarming.

Anyway, I’ve finished Wolf Hall and have to sit on my hands until the sequel comes out – my god, talk about leaving us on a cliffhanger! Will the Queen produce an heir? Will Cromwell win Jane Seymour? What the hell is going to go down at Wolf Hall…. well, you sort of know how it all turns out but at the same time the story she has created is so immediate, so vivid, it’s like… I don’t know. It’s as good as The Wire. Continue reading

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Sophie Calle: Talking to Strangers at the Whitechapel Gallery

Hell hath no powers of analysis like a woman dumped. That, anyway, is the message I got from Sophie Calle’s exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery. Calle has made a career out of recording her journeys and experiences, and creating strange experiments and inviting strangers to participate. The first one I knew of was Sleep, when she invited strangers to sleep in her bed, photographed them and asked them to talk about the experience. It’s the kind of art that makes some people roll their eyes. The same people, I imagine, who ‘don’t read poetry.’ What’s the point? they ask in frustration, to which the only answer is, what’s the point of anything?

This project began when she received an email from a lover telling her it was over. He sounds like a real bounder – one line was something along the lines of ‘you always said you didn’t want to be the fourth girlfriend and I am sparing you that indignity by dumping you’. So, like any artist worth her salt, she cannibalises her heartbreak unflinchingly, and comes up smiling – or at least, no longer weeping – with a brilliant new exhibition. Good for her.

She chooses 107 women of various professions and ages to analyse the letter. Sort of what you do with friends when this kind of thing happens, but taken several stages further. And the exhibition is a record of their responses – images of them reading the letter, written reactions to it, video footage of an actor reciting it, even a short story written by a children’s author that makes it into a sort of fairytale. A proofreader marks up repetitions. A young writer boils the email, eats it and declares: it tastes of cowardice. Continue reading

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