16 September 2019 marked the 40th anniversary of Matt’s Gallery, the contemporary art gallery founded by Robin Klassnik OBE in his east London studio in 1979. Uncompromisingly devoted to the artists it works with, the gallery has not only helped shape contemporary art in the UK but consistently reshaped and evolved itself over the 40 years of its existence.
Starting out of Klassnik’s Martello Street studio (where exhibitions would be held for a week every two months), Matt’s Gallery has subsequently inhabited three different spaces – both permanent and temporary. In 1993, the gallery moved into perhaps its most iconic and longest-held space on Copperfield Road in Mile End, the site of such ground-breaking exhibitions as Mike Nelson’s pivotal ‘The Coral Reef’ in 2000.
In 2016, the gallery moved into a temporary space on Decima Street, Bermondsey, then, in 2018, moved into its current space on Webster Road, Bermondsey. The gallery is due to move into its fourth most ambitious space yet in 2020: a 560 m2, two-floor gallery in Nine Elms, Wandsworth.
Speaking of Matt’s Gallery in 2008, artist Richard Grayson said: ‘To operate as an active and integral agent in the production of new work was the intention of the gallery from its inception.’ The uniquely hands-on and close relationship between artist and gallery that Grayson mentions likely stems from the fact that Klassnik first and foremost sees himself as an artist and the gallery consequently functions as part of his ongoing practice. Today, this artist-run model is more common among younger galleries, such as Gossamer Fog and Piper Keys in London.
Having hosted some of the earliest exhibitions by Jimmie Durham, Susan Hiller, Lindsay Seers and Richard Wilson, Matt’s Gallery is credited with shaping the careers of internationally renowned artists.
Continuing its original goal of supporting and providing a space for early-career artists to experiment and develop their practice, Matt’s Gallery has also held recent and important exhibitions with contemporary artists such as Benedict Drew, Joey Holder and Marianna Simnett.
Matt’s Gallery’s current space on Webster Road comprises the ground floor of a domestic terraced house. This 3m3 exhibition space, originally custom-built for Ron Henocq Fine Art, presents artists with a no-place-to-hide white box. Much smaller than the gallery’s previous warehouse spaces, Webster Road reflects Matt’s Gallery and Klassnik’s continually adaptable and inventive approach to exhibition-making.
Matt’s Gallery will mark its 40th anniversary with an exhibition by Susan Hiller, entitled ‘Ghost / TV’, which opens 22 September at Webster Road. A fundraiser dinner for the gallery will take place on 24 September at Nine Elms.