On 5 April the renovated and radically expanded Whitechapel Gallery opened its doors to the public; its space has been increased by some 78%. The Gallery has always been considered one of the most prestigious art institutions in London. The construction work, which took two years, adapted for gallery use the former library premises next to the original building of the Whitechapel Gallery. The expansion project was designed by Belgian architects Robbrecht en Daem in collaboration with London practice Witherford Watson Mann Architects.
For more than a century the Whitechapel Gallery, established in 1901, has been an institution that has actively promoted avant-garde and experimental ideas in visual arts. It has been the first to introduce many chrestomathic British artists of the 20th Century (David Hockney, Richard Long, Gilbert and George, Lucian Freud, et al), and has served as the first port of call in London for countless internationally renowned post-war and contemporary artists. In 1958 it held the first Jackson Pollock exhibition in Great Britain; the Whitechapel Gallery also introduced the British public to the paintings of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
In 1939 the Whitechapel Gallery exhibited Picasso's Guernica: the artist himself was in London on his first and only visit. These days any transportation of Guernica, held at the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid, is considered potentially harmful for the painting; therefore the Whitechapel Gallery reopening programme will use a tapestry copy of the masterpiece, which, with Picasso's blessing, was made in Paris in the 1950s and has been housed at the UN headquarters since 1985. The tapestry is on display in the former library reading room, and is a focal point of the site-specific installation created by Goshka Macuga, an artist of Polish extraction. The installation was inspired by the history and architecture of the former library (the exhibition will be on view through 18 April).
The reopening programme as a whole (consisting of seven separate exhibitions) has been designed to show off the new facilities of the Whitechapel Gallery to their full advantage.
77-82 Whitechapel High Street
Keywords: London, art project, art projects