Living Rooms

At home in the gallery

By and


Ben Burgis & Ksenia Pedan, Cloist Gulch, 2017, performance documentation, 56 Artillery Lane, Raven Row; photograph: Marcus J. Leith

Ben Burgis & Ksenia Pedan, Cloist Gulch, 2017. Film still, performance by Keira Fox & Adam Christensen. Cinematography by Amy Gwatkin. 

Over the past few months a spate of exhibitions in actual or former homes in London have addressed issues around private space, domesticity and hospitality. While London is in the midst of a housing crisis, with a shortage of affordable homes and the cost of accommodation skyrocketing across the city, concerns over shelter and politics of the domestic have become central for many. By the same token, the proliferation of exhibitions in, and of, domestic spaces also seems to signal a sort of ‘white cube fatigue’, a disaffection for expensive and flawlessly designed galleries; showrooms that often seem to bleach art of its humanity.


Lucy Orta, Refuge Wear, 1992–98, installation view, 56 Artillery Lane, Raven Row., London Courtesy: Lucy and Jorge Orta; photograph: Marcus J. Leith

Lucy Orta, Refuge Wear, 1992–98, included in ‘56 Artillery Lane’, 2017, installation view, Raven Row, London Courtesy: Lucy and Jorge Orta; photograph: Marcus J. Leith

Raven Row’s spring exhibition, ‘56 Artillery Lane’ (until 11 June), curated by Amy Budd and Naomi Pearce, considers the significance of the home and conditions of domesticity in the work of artists, mostly women, since the 1970s, with a special focus on the activities of the South London Art Group at 14 Radnor Terrace in 1974, where exhibitions and events were presented under the rubric ‘A Woman’s Place’. Prior to its transformation into an elegant exhibition space, Raven Row was a pair of Huguenot houses that witnessed waves of demographic change. Inside, a generous free publication edited by Amy Tobin features a historical essay about ‘A Woman’s Place’ alongside reproductions of original posters and documentation that elucidate the project’s radical feminist critique of labour and domestic politics. The exhibition also considers the antithesis of domestic life – homelessness – with Lucy Orta’s Refugee Wear (1992–98), a series of sleeping, or living, bags for use in emergencies. More than two decades after they were made, these ‘portable habitats’ gain a new significance in light of the number of people sleeping rough in London, which has more than doubled over the past five years.


‘Living Sculpture’, installation view of ‘Mind space. Flat Time House’, 6 April – 21 May 2017. Courtesy: Flat Time House, London; photograph: Jean-Philippe Woodland

‘Living Sculpture’, installation view, Flat Time House, London, 6 April – 21 May 2017. Courtesy: Flat Time House, London; photograph: Jean-Philippe Woodland

The artist John Latham’s Flat Time House at 210 Bellenden Road in Peckham was, until his death in 2006, a semi-public place open to anyone interested in ‘thinking about art’. In 2008 it was reborn as FTI-Io, a gallery with a programme of exhibitions, events and residencies, which was recently threatened with closure until its eleventh-hour ‘rescue’ by a private foundation that purchased the house and put it at the disposal of Flat Time House Institute, who will continue to run a public programme from the house.


‘Living Sculpture’, installation view, Flat Time House, London, 6 April - 21 May 2017. Courtesy: Flat Time House, London; photograph: Jean-Philippe Woodland

‘Living Sculpture’, installation view, Flat Time House, London, 6 April - 21 May 2017. Courtesy: Flat Time House, London; photograph: Jean-Philippe Woodland

Latham conceived of the house and its rooms as a body visitors could move through, going from mind to brain, though the ‘body event’ to the hand; a journey representing the stages of thought and artistic creation. For ‘Living Sculpture’ (until 21 May), curator Gareth Bell-Jones has stayed faithful to Latham’s ideas by making the house itself the subject of the show. The exhibition features some of Latham’s key works, by way of introduction to his often cryptic concepts, and newer works made in response to the house by artists including Anna Barham and Laure Prouvost, who was Latham’s assistant for five years and the FTI-Io’s first artist in residence.


Nicolas Deshayes, Snout (detail), 2016, patinated bronze, installation view, ‘Very Into You’, 8th April 2017, 29 Percy Street, London 

In Fitzrovia, artists Mark Barker and Angharad Davies have curated a series of four event-exhibitions taking place from March to June in a private Georgian townhouse at 29 Percy Street. This project, too, considers the house as a body, dedicating each event to a different part, from the façade taken as skin, to the central staircase as the building’s spine. When I visited in April, ‘Very Into You’ was articulated through the main rooms, or inner organs, of the house; it was thrilling to walk into its hushed environs from the busy London street, and to explore the house, discovering works by Nicolas Deshayes, Steve Reich and Rosalind Nashashibi, all the way up to what was once the servants’ quarters, where a small bedroom was adorned with a row of untitled silver gelatin prints by Terence McCormack, depicting formally dressed law clerks trundling boxes of analogue casework files through London traffic to deliver them to the courts. The project’s final act on 10 June features artist including Edward Thomasson and Marianna Simnett, working with text and performance to address the theme of catastrophe in relation to the building’s life – it survived WWII bombings, while some of its neighbours did not – and to consider methods of rebuilding.


‘Houses are Really Bodies: the writing of Leonora Carrington’, installation view, Cubitt Gallery, London. Photograph: Mark Blower

‘Houses are Really Bodies: the writing of Leonora Carrington’, 28 April – 4 June, 2017, installation view, Cubitt Gallery, London. Photograph: Mark Blower

The idea that a house is a living being finds one of its most enchanting expressions in ‘Houses are really bodies’ (until 4 June), Helen Nisbet’s first exhibition in her role as Cubitt Curatorial Fellow, which considers the writing of Leonora Carrington, the English-born writer who spent most of her life in Mexico, founding the Mexican Women’s Liberation Movement. One hundred years after her birth, the show carefully reveals her fraught relationship with domesticity. Working with London-based architectural practice vPPR to design the show, Nisbet has split the space with hanging blinds. On one side, a cosy nook painted chocolate brown houses Carrington’s drawings and Angela Carter’s first edition of Carrington’s novel The Hearing Trumpet (1977), from which the show’s title is borrowed. On the other, a cluster of sofas draped in parachute silk provides a place for visitors to sit and listen to recordings of Carrington’s stories read by writers and artists such as Chloe Aridjis, Lorraine O’Grady and Heather Phillipson. Nisbet has cannily smuggled in a reference to The Hearing Trumpet’s 92-year-old narrator Marian Leatherby and her love of violet lozenges by scenting the space with violet essence and bathing it in purple light.


Teddy May de Kock, ‘Duets’ performance project taking place over 3 evenings, 5 / 6 / 7 May 2017,, London. Courtesy:

Teddy May de Kock, ‘Duets’ performance project taking place over 3 evenings, 5 / 6 / 7 May 2017,, London. Courtesy:

In an area known as the ‘artist colony’ in Tottenham Hale, north London, five international curating students who met at the Royal College of Art recently set up Clearview, a gallery, residency and live/work space, which they fund by renting out one of their rooms with Airbnb. Their first exhibition, ‘Clearview Presents’, explored the politics of hosting and hostility, and bridged the division between public and private space with a discursive programme of ‘Bedroom Conversations’. More recently, Clearview hosted the Parisian curatorial collective Exo Exo, who curated the exhibition ‘Adult World’, which considered anxieties around growing up and achieving autonomy, a subject intimately related to the shortage of housing in London, with work by Andrew Mania and Mathis Collins. On the challenges of living and working communally, two of Clearview’s curators, Canan Batur and Cédric Fauq, told me that ‘work and life are never divided here; there is no living room’, and while they acknowledge that they are still working on it, they believe that ‘there is a model for using domestic spaces without copy-pasting the gallery into a living space.’

Main image: ‘Living Sculpture’, installation view, Flat Time House, London, 6 April – 21 May 2017. Courtesy: Flat Time House, London; photograph: Jean-Philippe Woodland

Most Read

With the 12th edition of the itinerant European biennial opening in Palermo, what do local artists, curators and...
In the age of Brexit, why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return the ‘stolen’ Parthenon marbles has never been...
The museum director, who resigned last year, acted with ‘integrity’, an independent report finds
In further news: study finds US film critics overwhelmingly white and male; woman sues father over Basquiat
With the government’s push for the controversial English baccalaureate, why the arts should be an integral part of the...
From Bruce Nauman at the Schaulager to the story of a 1970s artist community in Carona at Weiss Falk, all the shows to...
Sotheby’s and Christie’s say they are dropping the practice of using female-only staff to pose for promotional...
For the annual city-wide art weekender ahead of Basel, the best shows and events to attend around town
For our second report from BB10, ahead of its public opening tomorrow, a focus on KW Institute for Contemporary Art
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’
In further news: declining UK museum visitors sees country fall in world rankings; first winner of Turner Prize,...
The Icelandic-Danish artist’s creation in Vejle, Denmark, responds to the tides and surface of the water: both artwork...
In further news: Emperor Constantine’s missing finger discovered in the Louvre; and are Van Gogh’s Sunflowers turning...
The opening of a major new exhibition by Lee Bul was delayed after one of the South Korean artist’s works caught fire
The LA-based painter’s exquisite skewing of Renaissance and biblical scenes at Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London
Lee Bul, Abortion, 1989, performance documentation. Courtesy: the artist and PKM Gallery, Seoul
In a climate of perma-outrage has live art self-censored to live entertainment?

A tribute to the iconic New York journal: a platform through which founder Andy Warhol operated as artist, hustler and...
A distinctively American artist who, along with four neighbourhood contemporaries, changed the course of US painting...
From Assemble’s marbled floor tiles to Peter Zumthor's mixed-media miniatures, Emily King reports from the main...
From Ian White's posthumous retrospective to Lloyd Corporation's film about a cryptocurrency pyramid scheme, what to...
Kimberly Bradley speaks to ‘the German’ curator on the reasons for his early exit from the Austrian institution
In further news: #MeToo flashmob at Venice Architecture Biennale; BBC historian advocates for return of British...
German museums are being pushed to diversify their canons and respond to a globalized world – but is ‘cleaning up’ the...
Sophie Fiennes’s new film Bloodlight and Bami reveals a personal side of the singer as yet unseen 
‘At last there is a communal mechanism for women to call a halt to the demeaning conventions of machismo’
The German artist has put up 18 works for sale to raise money to buy 100 homes
The novelist explored Jewish identity in the US through a lens of frustrated heterosexuality
Artist Jesse Jones, who represented Ireland at last year’s Venice Biennale, on what is at stake in Friday’s Irish...
‘I spend more time being seduced by the void … as a way of energizing my language’: poet Wayne Koestenbaum speaks about...
To experience the music of the composer, who passed away last week at the age of 69, was to hear something tense,...
In a year charged with politicized tensions, mastery of craft trumps truth-to-power commentary
In further news: women wearing rainbow badges beaten in Beijing’s 798; gallerists Georg Kargl and Richard Gray have...
‘Coping as a woman in France is a daily battle: the aggression can be subtle, and you always have to push harder to...
Toyin Ojih Odutola’s portraits of a fictional aristocratic Nigerian family push toward an expanded definition...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018