Farewell to the 491 Gallery

491 Gallery Leytonstone

The 491 Gallery now lies in a pile of rubble between Grove Green Road and the M11 Link Road. It’s been sad to walk past and see it come down day-by-day – from the wooden hoardings going up a couple of months ago, watching the roof beams carried out and placed on a trailer, to the final bricks being knocked down on Tuesday.

491 Gallery Leytonstone

I did Life Drawing classes on a Monday night in that room that hangs from the edge of the building in this photo. I bought two hand-built bird boxes that hang in my garden for a fiver there as well. Where there is a pile of bricks below I went to an all day gig where people watched the bands slouched on bean bags and cushions. The 491 was a very chilled out place in my experience.

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For a ‘post-link road’ Leytonstoner such as myself, the 491 Gallery was a link to the spirit of former times. A vestige of the period when Leytonstone had the largest population of artists in Europe although it dates from after the road it is a legacy of it. The building had been used as a storage facility for the building of the Link Road. Previous to that it had been a factory that built safes. The demolition guys carrying out the heavy roof beams said to me there was still an enormous safe inside that they had to get out somehow.

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This kind of squatted social space links back to the London I knew when I first came to live here in 1989 and is slowly fading away. There are groups that still operate social spaces, sometimes in conjunction with the property owners using meanwhile leases, but they are necessarily temporary without time to grow roots into the community. The 491 Gallery was a real presence in the Leytonstone community and it’s very sad to see it go to be replaced with yet another uniform block of flats.

491 Gallery Leytonstone

Rest in Peace 491 Gallery may your spirit live on.

Leytonstone artist community in the 1980’s

Great description of Leytonstone in the 1980’s from City Racing – the life and times of an artist run gallery written by Matt Hale, John Burgess, Paul Noble, Keith Coventry, and Peter Owen, which I exchanged with Matt one night in The Heathcote for a copy of This Other London. It sets the scene for the infamous M11 Link Road protests that ran from the late 1980’s to 1994.

 

It was the blighted, front and back gardened, Victorian houses that had become home and workplace to another large East End artist community. The DoT leased the properties they owned to various short-life housing organisations, one of which was ACME. ACME’s rents were super cheap. Houses became live/work spaces. Rooms were knocked together to make bigger studios. Leytonstone was like a weird suburb full of Sunday painters, but where every day was Sunday”

 

The ‘Remembering the M11′ event is tonight at The Wanstead Tap

Leytonstone Centre for Contemporary Art

Leytonstone Centre for Contemporary Art - a short documentary from fugueur on Vimeo.

Here’s a short documentary I made about the Leytonstone Centre for Contemporary Art – a shed in Bob and Roberta Smith’s garden with an international reputation.

Ultimately several replica LCCAs were made and spread all around Europe (one was at the Serpentine), some were burnt, broken up etc, I think one still survives up in Warwick. I went to Brooklyn to interview the first artist to show at the gallery who then set up his own space which has become a huge success.
My fascination with the shed round the corner from my house was the reason I made the feature documentary about Bob which is screening at the ICA on 26th August.

Nook

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The Leytonstone Centre for Contemporary Art finally has a rival – artist Lizzie Hughes’ ‘occasional project space’ Nook.
I went along on Sunday to have a gander at the inaugural show – Constellations, featuring the work of Ian Bourn, Matt Hale, Robert Ellis, and Pat Naldi and I spent more time in the Tardis-like gallery than I have in many of the rooms at Tate Modern.
Leytonstone may yet reclaim its place as London’s Left Bank.

Opening times and info about Nook here

Waste of Space at the 491 Gallery

The 491 Gallery in Leytonstone is far from being a waste of space in its current incarnation as a squatted artist run space offering workshops and organising exhibitions.
Ownership of the building has passed from London Transport to a private developer who plans to knock the place down and build a block of flats (with wonderful views of the M11 Link Road). The residents of the 491 have been given notice to vacate the premises on 13th January, so today’s exhibition marked one of the last opportunities to drop by.

The fire-pit was blazing in the ad-hoc landscaped garden with its furniture and sculptures made from recycled junk. I bought a beautiful hand-made bird-box for £6 at the Jumblegeddon on the ground flair.
Upstairs was a fascinating photographic exhibition/installation exploring ‘the use and misuse of space in the modern world, peering into hidden worlds and darkened corners to reveal the secret stories of forgotten buildings and of the people who try to bring life back to them’ (as their hand-out tells us).

Of course Leytonstone has form in this area with the squatted houses that became the focus of the protests against the building of the Link Road in the heyday of ‘Leytonstonia’.

The photographs range from nicely interior designed houses in Spain inhabited by musicians to the old Courage Brewery in Bristol where a forest of weeds have filled the void. The photos of rooms in houses are linked via coloured woolen threads creating a new para-space within the gallery.

The exhibition runs till Saturday 22nd December – go along not just to have a look at this great installation but also catch a glimpse of Leytonstone’s last occupied space before it’s gone.

Make Your Own Damn Art

My documentary about fellow-Leytonstonian Bob and Roberta Smith nearly comes home today with a screening at Sugarhouse Studios in Stratford.

This will be the third screening of the film after the East End Film Festival and Portobello Film Festival. Doing the two previous introductions to the film and a Q&A has made be remember that the film really began life on this blog.

As I researched the area I came across the Leytonstone Centre for Contemporary Art and Bob’s work and wanted to find out more. If you click on the tags below you’ll be able to follow the evolution of the project.

After Sugarhouse there will be a screening at Curzon Soho on Saturday 22nd September

Details of the screenings of the film can be found on the Makeyourowndamnfilm website

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Make Your Own Damn Film #4

Lcca
Leytonstone Centre for Contemporary Art

Back in April this year I was asked to show a work-in-progress cut of my documentary about artist Bob and Roberta Smith at the ICA. I wrote about it here at the time.
Now that 25 minute cut has taken on a life all of its own. It’s currently looping in Pierogi Gallery’s Boiler space in New York where Bob has a show (there is also some more recent footage projected onto his Gotham Golem sculpture).
The film is also being shown this Sunday, 20th November at the Crunch Festival of art and philosophy in Hay-on-Wye with Bob doing a talk afterwards about his recently launched, Art Party – a bohemian reposte to the Tea Party.
The photo at the top of this page is the reason this film came into being – my desire to find out what happened inside that shed, the mysteries of the Leytonstone Centre of Contemporary Art. Now I know – I think.

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