John O’Donoghue went along to Shape In The City’s Pop-Up Gallery at 40 Gracechurch Street. This is what he found.
If think of a Pop-Up Gallery I think of something makeshift and provisional, something like Tracy Emin and Sarah Lucas’s shop in the East End of London, the one they opened when they were still students at Goldsmith’s. But in the heart of the City, a short walk from Monument tube station, something amazing is going on.
This is Shape’s version of a Pop-Up Gallery – five floors of luxurious City office space occupying 60,000 square feet. To put that in context the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea is 70,000 square feet. Shape in the City is the Daddy of Pop-Up Galleries. And there’s nothing makeshift or provisional about it.
As you come in at the Ground Floor you’re signed in by the concierge and asked to take a seat over on the low-slung designer sofa about a hundred yards away. You scan the trendy perspex boards listing the companies who also use Gracechurch Street and see that Shape is there – they’re given the same prominence as the other companies using the building, with five perspex boards of their own. Then someone from Shape in the City will come down and make you feel welcome. A great start, particularly if access isn’t easy. You then go up in the lift and make your way round the exhibition space.
The gallery is home to a wide variety of artists, all of them disabled, working in a wide variety of media. On the day I went I was struck by the sheer amount of space and the diversity of work on show.
Take Chris Sacre and Juan del Gado. Sacre has filled 2000 condoms with plaster, let them to set, and turned them out onto the floor. They look like a crop of weird white vegetables, with little nipples on top, or tiny aliens from a Philip K Dick story, or a comic version of Cal Andre’s pile of bricks.
Sacre says that as a deaf artist he wants to communicate in ways British Sign Language doesn’t allow, wants to express himself visually, wants to make his little sculpture-people so they can keep him company. And he doesn’t really sell these – he lets people ‘adopt’ them. The humour of the piece is there at every level, from using condoms as a mould, to the nipple-headed creatures themselves, to his notes about them.
Juan del Gado by contrast is altogether darker. His exhibit is ‘The Wounded Image’ , a series of photographs drawn from his experience as a survivor of violence and trauma. Featuring bodies draped on steps, laid out on the ground in abandoned poses of desolation, the images are at once stylised and disturbing, as if straight after a Vogue photo shoot the models had all been killed.
It’s a great testament to Shape’s reputation and to the enterprising spirit of Tony Heaton in particular that the gallery is here in the first place. That it should be exhibiting such varied and interesting art is a bonus. Perhaps Charles Saatchi should get down there and check it out.
Delivered in partnership with Photovoice, and Action Space with over 30 artists and 130+ works, Shape in the City has turned five floors of contemporary office space into a showcase of sculpture, prints, paintings, film and video, poetry, performance art and installations.
Address: 40 Gracechurch Street London EC3V OBT
Nearest tube Monument
Opening times: Monday to Thursday 10am - 2 pm
Other times by appointment only