New London gallery launched in derelict haberdashery

London-based gallery Edel Assanti has launched a unique gallery space in a former haberdashery in Fitzrovia. Co-founded by Jeremy Epstein and Charlie Fellowes in 2009, the new face of Edel Assanti has been designed with artists at the forefront.

Epstein and Fellowes purchased the Grade II-listed Arts and Crafts building six months ago. It was designed by the Arts and Crafts architect Beresford Pite in 1904 and became the first Young Women’s Christian Association hostel. But by 2020, the derelict building was almost beyond reproach with its flooded basement and small, damp rooms above.

In an interview with The Art Newspaper, Fellowes explained that the cost of the renovation was “more than we’d anticipated—fortunately we’d had a solid business year so could absorb that cost.” He added: “I’m glad we’re not going to be doing it again for another 15 years!”

To tackle this colossal redesign, Epstein and Fellowes selected the up-and-coming architecture firm Sanchez Benton. Over just a few short months the building has been transformed into a modern 4,000 square feet gallery. It now boasts two street-level galleries, a 23-foot-high conservatory, and the original floorboards and ceiling have been proudly exposed.

Speaking about the impact of the pandemic on their project, Epstein noted that “everyone seems to have had a different experience over the past two years. It has been quite exciting really because it suggests that everyone has been finding different strategies and that audiences are quite different from gallery to gallery.”

This year, the gallery will present solo exhibitions by five new artists to their programme, including the first London solo exhibitions for artists Emmanuel Van der Auwera, Agata Bogacka and Lonnie Holley. The inaugural show, which opens this week, exhibits new work by French visual artist Noémie Goudal. She was the first artist to join Edel Assanti’s listing in 2010.

Goudal conceived the works in this show for the new gallery space, with a large-scale installation called Phoenix in the seven-metre-high main gallery. Titled ‘Post Atlantica’, the display analyses the earth’s surface from the perspective of over millions of years. This huge timescale exposes the continuously altering geographies that we in fact view as static during our short lifetimes.

Goudal’s work dwarfs you, makes you think about your relative insignificance in the grand scheme of time, shows you that nature and history are infinitely bigger than you,” remarked journalist Eddy Frankel for Time Out. “But simultaneously, she also makes you feel acutely anxious about your impact on it all as a member of the endlessly destructive human race. If we’re here for a good time, not a long time, maybe we should start being a little more considerate.”

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