The East End is full of trendy galleries and street art. The walls are covered with graffiti and posters announcing new art shows, and the graffiti change almost every week. It is very easy to get lost in all this abundance, also given that not all galleries can be seen from the street or have a sign on their door. It's best to go see the art of the East End on the last Thursday of each month when all venues work till late and in the evening the tour turns into one huge party in the open air.
This non-profit modern art gallery resides in historical buildings on Artillery Lane. The entire street was built in the 17th century, while the chambers occupied by Raven Row (the former name of the street) belong to the 18th century. The idea of exhibiting most poignant modern art in ancient mansions isn't new to London, but the programme of this gallery has especially good press reviews. Moreover, Raven Row chose to organize displays not only for the members of artistic clubbish set, but also for those who seldom visit cultural events. The upper floors are given to art schools while downstairs there is a very good bookshop with excellent works on art.
St. John’s Bread and Wine
The Spitalfields branch of this famous restaurant for true foodies specialises primarily in excellent pastry and wine, as you can figure from the name. Come here during lunchtime which starts at noon. It is recommended to book tables in advance, but during the day it shouldn't be a problem. Besides, you can always grab some pastry to go. In particular try local brownies, probably the best in the whole London.
One of the secret galleries in Shoreditch, Hales hides behind a plain door with no signs on it, and even when you enter you will not know where to go next right away. In order to get where you want you need to go through a big hall and ask a security guy to open another door. This, however, doesn't mean that the gallery displays utterly unknown artists – the works of some of them can be found at large international exhibitions and even the Venice Biennale. Hales love artists with a sense of humour, so you will not be bored here even if modern art isn't your cup of tea.
One of the most famous London galleries, Victoria Miro is named after its owner and director. It is here where the works of the scandalous Chapman brothers and the Turner Prize winner Chris Ofili were shown for the first time. The same gallery represents such selebrities as Grayson Perry, Yayoi Kusama, Isaak Julien and Peter Doig (the list can go on and on). Victoria Miro first opened its doors in 1985, and at that time it was situated in bourgeois Mayfair. In 2000 the gallery moved into an enormous building of a former Victorian furniture factory where it has been headquartered ever since.
Parasol Unit is a foundation and a charity organization that promotes modern art and helps artists. Each year they host 4 major exhibitions. The foundation works with many foreign artists and has played a considerable role in careers of Yang Fudong and Michael Borremans, among the others. It adheres to the idea of art for everyone and strives to attract the audience that has nothing to do with artictic circles. Parasol Unit does so by holding free workshops, lectures and other educational activities. The same philosophy explains why the foundation deliberately avoided bearing the name of its founder and curator Dr. Ziba Aldaran.
Institute of International Visual Art (Iniva) is a non-profit organization that suports curators and artists. The mission of Iniva is to study how international community, various nationalities, cultures and religions are represented in modern art, which is a very hot issue for a multicultural city such as London. They regularly set up exhibitions featuring renowned British and foreign artists, including Yinka Shonibare, Hew Locke and Zineb Sedira. Before your visit go to the Events section on their site – lectures, conferences and workshops have brought Iniva its fame. They also have a great library with books on art and cultural studies, as well as their own publishing house. The headquarters of the Institute were built by an architect David Adjaye. It was the first time in 40 years when a building was constructed specifically for an art space using taxpayers money (the first one was Hayward gallery in Southbank).
Nonprofit gallery Calvert 22 is considered one of the top London galleries dealing with art from Russia and Eastern Europe. It was founded in 2009 by Nonna Materkova. Among the others it exhibited works of Alexander Brodsky and Olga Chernysheva. The exhibitions, occupying two floors of a former warehouse, are attractive not only because of the works displayed, but also due to unconventional solutions by the curators. Since 2012 the gallery publishes its own magazine, The Calvert Journal, covering news on visual art in Eastern Europe.
Leila's Shop bears the name of its owner. Being a small and always packed cafe/shop, ideal for sitting outside in the summer, Leila's Shop got famous for a reason. It offers home-made meals with large selection of Polish dishes and fresh foods of good quality: a variety of cheeses and ham, salads from fresh fruits and vegetables, organic eggs and English chutney. This cafe is adored by the locals for its great coffee and relaxing atmosphere.
It is one of the first commercial modern art galleries to appear in the East End. Founded in 1984, the gallery exhibited artists fron the USA and continental Europe, and discoved many British ones. Now Maureen Paley represents winners of Turner Prize Wolfgang Tillmans and Gillian Wearing, and no less famous artists like Liam Gillick, Margan Fisher, Saskia Olde Wolbers and many others.
Cell Project Space
Cell Project Space is a strange place that you can walk by many times without noticing. You can even be standing right at the entrance with a map before your eyes and not see it. In order to get there pass through the gates of a white building, reminding of a warehouse and a garage at the same time, and cross the inner yard with flowerpots, then go up the stairs that look like they can't possibly lead you to a gallery. Cell Project Space is a non-profit organization created by the artists for the artists and people from other creative background. Cell makes a living by renting out studios. Exhibitions are organized either by common efforts of the staff and the artists or by visiting curators. Despite its very underground looks, it is actually an extremely well-known and loved site that works with beginning artists and actual art.
For the last 40 years Vyner Street has had a crucial influence on the lives of many wanna-be artists. Murky factory premises that are now occupied by numerous galleries (the street is practically crammed with them) have been here since the middle of the XX century, when after the WWII the street was turned from a dormitory suburb into an industial hub. You can often hear from the art community that the glory of Vyner Street has long faded, and maybe it is somewhat true, but it is still a place you simply must visit. Pop into Degree Art gallery that trades inexpensive works by beginner artists. Don't miss HADA Contemporary, promoting famous South Korean artists that are hardly known abroad. On the other side there is Cultivate, selling prints and street art. And most important, go all the way to Wilkinson gallery, a building in the end of the street with huge black gates – most popular venue working with world-famous artists. Try to get here on the first Thursday of a month and stay until 6p.m., when all galleries open their doors for visitors and a real open air party begins.