London has become obsessed with its own disappearance. Excavations for high speed transport networks and luxury developments destined to make London the city of the future have done an excellent job of pulverising its (colourful, countercultural) past: recording studios, drag cabarets, music venues, gay clubs, independent cinemas, book stores and cafés have all felt the impact. Many have shut for good, moved out or moved online.
In Mayfair, traditional home to the grown up ‘moderns and masters’ art market, luxury fashion is pushing out the galleries. Big brands can cope with rising rates: small art galleries cannot. The hip young independent galleries have long since fled to the city’s marginal spaces, clustering in Mile End, Peckham, and Elephant & Castle or squeezing themselves into overlooked corners in the city centre: Soho yards scented with weeping trash, or dusty, failing high street storefronts.
Project Native Informant occupies a small former office suite in a disused corporate block in the legal and financial district. On a bright summer day, sun blasts through the glass walls. No longer luxuriating in corporate aircon, the temperature of the space is intolerably high. Their show, though, is heat-appropriate: sultry vinyls and drawings of 1980s fashion vixens by the Japanese artist and illustrator Harumi Yamaguchi. Re-carpeted in fuchsia pink, with walls painted in gradiated seaside blues and yolk yellow, the tatty corporate office is transformed into a site of fantasy for a girl trapped in a nine-to-five. Learning to exploit such unconventional spaces is a key component in the independent gallerist’s skill set.
“It’s strange to note how on one hand, business is good because our clients are much less affected by austerity, but on the other hand most of my artists have left London because they find the situation unliveable here.” Vanessa Carlos, director of Carlos/Ishikawa