East End the cultural capital for Art Night 2017

The Bascule Chamber of Tower Bridge is a blank canvas for art installations. Photo by Steve Stills

A meditation session in the bascule chamber of Tower Bridge, public dance sessions in Exchange Square, a video game created of a disused office space; anybody who thinks art in the City is limited to a Saturday matinee at the Barbican is yet to see the programme for Art Night 2017.

The annual all-night arts showcase, which was inspired by Nuit Blanche (“sleepless night”) in Paris, launched last year in central London transforming office blocks, flats, public spaces and Tube platforms into after-hours public galleries with the help of the ICA.

This year’s event on 1 July puts the City and East End in the spotlight, with the Whitechapel Gallery stepping up as a co-producer with Unlimited Productions, lead by independent curator and writer Fatos Ustek.

The gallery will be one of more than 13 historically significant sites and modern public spaces across the East End, presenting new commissions and UK premieres of ground-breaking contemporary art and reaffirming the area’s status as the Capital’s artistic hub.

“The City has a great deal of cultural momentum going right now,” Art Night co-founder Ksenia Zemtsova says.

“There are a lot of new bars, restaurants, artistic institutions are gaining recognition, it’s becoming a place you can spend time on weekends.”

“That feeds into one of the major aims of Art Night; discovering secret places through art.”

City’s secrets on show include a disused warehouse at London Dock, which will house the unveiling of Jake and Dinos Chapman’s new video installation The Misshapeness of Things to Come. A selection of their defaced prints will also be inserted into the furnishings of 18th-century Dennis Severs’ House in Spitalfields.

news london
Dennis Severs’ House, Master bedroom. Photo: Roelof Bakker

The chambers below Tower Bridge will host artist Ian Whittlesea leading his audience in an ‘illuminated’ meditation session, and Scottish installation artist Charles Avery will show objects from the fictional island in his mind in locations across the East End, from the hunter and the eel seller to egg cocktails at The Egg Eating Eggret bar.

The Grade-II listed Masonic temple inside Liverpool Street’s Andaz Hotel will be transformed by a video installation from neo-narrative artist Lindsay Seers, while Broadgate will be the stage for a mass public dance led by visual and performance artist Melanie Manchot, Ksenia’s pick of the progamme.

london magazine
Melanie Manchot, Dance (All Night, Paris 2011)

“Exchange Square is essentially going to be a big stage, with lessons in different styles of dance in collaboration with 10 different East London dance schools,” she says.

The lessons will run through the beginning of the night, then the square becomes a giant dance floor, silent disco style from around 1am, which I think will be a bit of a first for the City.”

And as Lawrence Lek turns the White Chapel Building’s modern office suites into a computer-generated video game exploring the utopian potential of London’s future workspaces, the event will culminate in a club night at Village Underground that celebrates Shoreditch’s nightlife.

In addition to the 13 main installations, there are also 60 associate projects, a significant expansion on last year’s event.

“There are so many arts organisations in the area, it just made sense for us to extend it,” Ksenia said.

“We had so many local people wanting to participate, which was great to see, and more installations has meant we’ve been able to extend some of them to the day after.”

business magazine
Güneş Terkol, Against the Current, 2013. Photo courtesy of the artist

One of the projects is even going to stick around for the long haul; a mural for the Middlesex Street Estate by Turkish visual artist Güneş Terkol inspired by the local community.

“This more permanent approach is very new to us, but it’s part of a broader aim to see some of the works acquired by public collections, and then you see Art Night becoming a commissioning platform.”

She added that the collaboration between the often conflicting forces of artists and corporations was equally satisfying, pointing the out involvement from local developers was unique given their role in facilitating many of the changes in the area in recent decades.

“It has been really interesting to see how we managed to bring different partners together; the Whitechapel Gallery, an international auction house like Phillips, but then also East London developers, who I think are realising that in order to maintain this as a place people want to visit, they need to figure out new ways of keeping arts and culture alive here.”

All Art Night events are free but some require pre-registration, visit artnight.london

Lead image: Tower Bridge Bascule Chamber. Photo: Steve Stills