ICA off-site: East London in the West End

Is the best of London’s culture more contemporary than in other European capital cities? That’s my feeling and I also feel that a large part of London’s culture is outside of museums and galleries. The ICA explores London rich subculture since the 80s. The ICA curator, who delivered a powerful tour of the show, chose an offsite location. The show is held at the Old Selfridge hotel (nearby the Yo Sushi at Selfridges, on Orchard St.). The site, a rough cavernous space stripped to bare concrete, is well suited to take us on a trip in London subculture.

Artists, galleries, architects, designers and even the restaurateurs of St John’s (Mr BB was delighted to see his London favourite restaurant featured in the show) were asked to show their memorabilia in vitrines. This raised two points in my mind: the role of the curator and the exhibition support.

Here, the curator Gregor Muir, who I had the pleasure to talk to, chose the exhibitors according to his view of their contribution to London subculture. He then left them 100% freedom, not providing any guidelines apart from the dimensions of the vitrines.

I wondered how hard it was to exhibit in small spaces like vitrines. How do you show yourself and your contributions to London culture and hopefully stand out from the other vitrines. I liked the show especially for those points, in particular when contrasting the freedom left to the artists vs. the physical constraints of the vitrines.

The Tate Britain curator would have a different view but the best of London culture may be the contemporary subculture, not necessarily in art galleries. The ICA Off-Site: A Journey Through London Subculture: 1980s to Now is free and runs until November 3. Btw, there were no paintings on sight – see my post on wondering if painting is passé.


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