Gathering: the new Soho gallery mixing art and activism
Gathering: the new Soho gallery mixing art and social activism
Gathering, London’s newest resident gallery in Soho, will focus on contemporary art exploring systemic social issues. Ahead of Tai Shani’s inaugural exhibition, we chat with founders Alex Flick and Trinidad Fombella about their vision for the gallery
Soho and the world of contemporary art go back a long way. This centuries-old breeding ground for radical art has been responsible for cultivating the careers of many canonical artists. But even now, when a new gallery moves in, it’s big news.
Enter Gathering, a new two-storey gallery space on Warwick Street founded by Alex Flick and Trinidad Fombella. Opening in time for Frieze Week 2022, Turner Prize winner Tai Shani ushers in the space with “Your Arms Outstretched Above Your Head, Coding With The Angels” – an ethereal, psychedelic show exploring power structures and ideology Politics.
Flick and Fombella’s vision for the gathering is a fusion of contemporary international art and social activism, particularly artists focusing on gender, race, queer culture, colonialism, the environment, the inequality and marginalization.
Exterior view, Gathering. Image credit: Courtesy of Gathering, photo © Gray Hutton
Wallpaper*: When and how was the idea of Gathering born?
Trinidad Fombella: The Gathering idea had been in the works for a long time, but we started working on it full time last year. After two years of isolation, canceled exhibitions and a sense of postponed life, we decided it was time to build a place where we could physically and intellectually reconnect.
Alex Flick: We wanted to create a new, inclusive platform where we could showcase a diverse program of site-specific exhibitions focused on our shared passion for immersive installations and radical practices by international artists.
Wallpaper*: Can you describe the vision of the gallery and the artists you hope to work with?
A F: Our vision for Gathering is guided by our deep interest in showcasing unique artistic voices and fostering cultural exchange, dialogue and social intervention. Opening our gallery with a solo exhibition by Tai Shani is incredibly exciting, his multidisciplinary practice could not be more relevant, both to our vision and to today’s cultural climate.
TF: Our guiding principle is that the work we show should be innovative, exciting and artistically and intellectually relevant. We are particularly interested in radical, experimental and multidisciplinary artists. Tai has been working in this field for almost two decades, but his exhibitions have mostly lived in institutional settings. She is known for her large-scale installations and constellations of enigmatic works that create politically charged poetic environments and actively address power structures.
Portrait of Alex Flick Trinidad Fombella. Photo credit: ©Grey Hutton
Wallpaper*: Why was it so important to anchor the gallery in social activism (the Gallery Climate Coalition, Embode and The Anti-Slavery Collective) from the start? And how will this inform your programming?
TF: The environment is a subject close to our hearts. Gallery Climate Coalition is a brilliant initiative that really raises awareness of how even the smallest changes you can make as a business have a bigger impact. We also see him as a model of how the art world can unite for causes important to humanity.
A F: From the start, we wanted the philosophy of Gathering to encompass issues that are close to our hearts. We see our work with Embode and The Anti-Slavery Collective as opportunities to showcase their important work and collaborate with exceptional people. We are currently developing a campaign of limited edition graphic T-shirts coinciding with each exhibition, designed by the artists we will be presenting. All proceeds from sales will go to our initiative with Embode.
Wallpaper*: Why did you choose Tai Shani for the inaugural exhibition?
TF: Tai Shani is an artist we have long admired for her contributions to contemporary art discourse and beyond. His work and social activism are complex and fearless, and his values and ideas are clearly defined in his multidisciplinary practice and in all aspects of his life and work. A former professor at the Royal College of Art and co-winner of the 2019 Turner Prize, Tai is hugely respected and admired in the art community.
A F: Opening our gallery in London, the place we call home, with a British artist of her calibre, who has a strong social commitment and who has never had a commercial exhibition in the city before, expresses our vision of all possible ways. Tai’s practice revolves around experimental texts, fantastical imagery and sculptural works in which she re-imagines female otherness, constructing a world of cosmologies, myths and stories that confront established narratives that must be questioned. An immersive otherworldly installation will take over our lower gallery and it will only be accessible through a screening of Tai’s Nine Chapters Film The neon hieroglyph. A must experience for those who can travel to London this fall.
Installation view: Tai Shani, “Your Arms Outstretched Above Your Head, Coding With The Angels”, Gathering, London, October 6 – December 6, 2022. Image credit: courtesy of the artist and Gathering, photography © Brotherton Lock
Wallpaper*: Can you describe the architectural approach to the space and why you chose Matheson Whiteley for the design?
A F: We wanted a space to reflect the challenging and ambitious program we have planned. We are always looking to partner with people who can understand and complement our vision. Matheson Whiteley has an incredible reputation with major projects to his credit, such as Studio Voltaire and Thomas Dane Gallery.
TF: Jason Whiteley and James Bailey inspired us with ideas that shaped a unique architecture with rough overlapping spaces and carefully designed suspended lighting structures. The existing space has been stripped down and completely renovated, exposing the structural backbone and revealing fragments of older walls and structural systems that have such strong character. §