THE CULTURAL EVOLUTION OF NINE ELMS’ GALLERY QUARTER
Nine Elms is in the midst of the biggest central London building project since the Great Fire. Trish Lesslie investigates the dramatic changes in progress in the area…
To truly appreciate the total transformation of Nine Elms, board a train at Waterloo or Vauxhall and head towards Clapham Junction. The profusion of office and apartment blocks in various stages of construction between New Covent Garden Market and the iconic chimneys of Battersea Power Station is literally concrete evidence that change is afoot.
In fact, More than 20 interconnected development schemes are changing the face of this riverside district, which is well on its way to becoming an ultra-modern, thriving destination in central London offering 20,000 new homes and 25,000 new jobs.
New schools, public squares, parks and footpaths are being created alongside major improvements to local infrastructure, and Transport for London has already started work on the extension of the Northern Line, due to open by 2020.
The changes were recently celebrated in an arts project, Material Action, which brought clay and digital storytelling workshops to a network of galleries on the south bank of the Thames. The scheme gave young people from Wandsworth and Lambeth the opportunity to explore their experiences of the developing area through creative clay making with the support of established artists at the Beaconsfield Gallery Vauxhall, Gasworks and Pump House Gallery – all part of the fast growing cultural network of Nine Elms ‘gallery quarter’.
The workshop programme, which began in January, was part of the Tate Exchange programme, which allows other organisations and members of the public to participate in Tate’s creative process. It culminated in an interactive workshop on 10 March at Tate Modern showcasing the young people’s work.
The regeneration of Nine Elms is bringing the whole area to life and the council is doing all it can to support the development of this exciting new cultural hotspot
‘This project combines the exceptional creative talents of three superb galleries and draws on the inspiration of Tate Modern,’ says Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council and co-chair on the Nine Elms Vauxhall Partnership.
‘It’s a great example of this area’s regeneration programme opening up new opportunities for our local communities. Clay brick is the building block for some of the most iconic buildings in Nine Elms and Vauxhall, new and old.’
Nine Elms, which derives its name from a row of trees that once bordered the main road, has existed as a settlement on the Thames for hundreds of years. But while the arrival of Vauxhall Bridge in 1816 stimulated rapid development in the area, the construction of the railway viaduct a few decades later cut through existing neighbourhoods, hampering future development.
It’s an obstacle that planners are now well and truly overcoming. At 195 hectares, Nine Elms is by far the largest regeneration zone in central London and one of the biggest in Europe. And as the once mainly industrial area transforms into one of London’s top destinations to live and work, so its arts scene is booming.
When Damian Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery opened in Vauxhall in 2015 – just a stone’s throw from the old Royal Doulton factory – the area’s reputation as a thriving cultural centre was sealed. It continues to grow with the arrival of new independent galleries along this southern stretch of riverside.
‘The regeneration of Nine Elms is bringing the whole area to life and the council is doing all it can to support the development of this exciting new cultural hotspot,’ says Govindia. ‘It’s incredibly exciting to see a vibrant new gallery quarter taking shape along this part of the South Bank. Collaborative programming and partnerships with institutions like the Tate will help sustain and support this growing cultural network in the years ahead.’
BATTERSEA & NINE ELMS’
TOP ART galleries
Plus One Gallery
Having relocated from Pimlico Road to Battersea Reach in Summer 2016, this new, ultra modern space complements the contemporary style of the British and international contemporary hyperrealist art works for sale. plusonegallery.com
London’s only dedicated space for contemporary indigenous Australian art. Working only with registered Aboriginal owned art centres across Australia, the gallery ensures that works are ethically sourced. jgmgallery.com
Pump House Gallery
Situated beside the lake in Battersea Park and owned by Wandsworth Council, this welcoming space is a great place to see, participate and engage in contemporary art. pumphousegallery.org.uk
Beaconsfield Gallery Vauxhall
Founded as an educational charity in 1994, Beaconsfield is an influential experimental art laboratory and gallery with some high profile international partnerships behind it. beaconsfield.ltd.uk
This non-profit contemporary visual art organisation provides studios for London-based artists. Its international residencies programme also offers international artists the opportunity to research and develop new work in London. gasworks.org.uk