The Newport Street Gallery has opened their doors today (8th October), to the public in Vauxhall, south London. The gallery is the brainchild of the mega-rich YBA artist Damien Hirst who now has a permanent space to house and display his vast art collection. Once the bad boy of the contemporary art world, Hirst seems to have settled down to a life of building projects which include his massive house in London’s Regent Park, a large swarth of the village of Ilfracombe, in his birthplace Devon and now this spectacular gallery space.
Hirst is no stranger to the art of collecting. He has been a serious player on the international art auction circuit since he sold a chunk of his own artwork at Sotheby’s. His holdings of several thousand significant works include pieces by Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon. It is an ambitious and diverse collection.
Inaugurating Newport Street Gallery is a major exhibition of work by John Hoyland (1934–2011), one of Britain’s greatest abstract painters. ‘Power Stations’ presents 33 of Hoyland’s large-scale paintings, dating from 1964 to 1982, drawn from Hirst’s collection. Spanning a pivotal period in the artist’s career, the works will be displayed throughout all six of the gallery’s exhibition spaces until 3rd April 2016.
Future exhibitions at Newport Street will vary between solo and group shows. Spanning five buildings, the gallery is situated close to the River Thames and a short walk from Tate Britain. Designed by architects Caruso St John, it comprises 37,000 square feet. One of the central galleries has a height of 11 metres and the roof of the tallest building has been specifically designed to allow for the installation of large sculptures.
The construction of Newport Street Gallery has taken three years and involved the conversion of three listed Victorian buildings, which were purpose-built in 1913 to serve as scenery painting studios for the booming local and West End theatre industries. Two new additional buildings have been constructed at either end of the existing three, creating a gallery that spans half the length of the street. Hirst acquired the first of the Newport Street buildings in 2002, and initially used it as a studio space.
On the opening of the gallery, Hirst states: “I believe art should be experienced by as many people as possible and I’ve felt guilty owning work that is stored away in boxes where no one can see it. Having a space where I can put on shows from the collection is a dream come true. Newport Street is an incredible space with an amazing sense of history, and it’s a fantastic opportunity for me to wear a curatorial hat for a change, I couldn’t be happier.”
Hirst’s interest in curating dates back to the beginning of his artistic career and his organisation of the groundbreaking ‘Freeze’ exhibition in south London in 1988. At Newport Street Gallery, Hirst will present exhibitions from the Murderme collection, which he has been building since the late 1980s and which has previously been the subject of major group exhibitions at the Serpentine Gallery, London (2006) and the Pinacoteca Agnelli, Turin (2013).
The gallery’s shop features books, prints and limited editions by both emerging and established contemporary artists.
Pharmacy2, the restaurant, will open in 2016 and cater for visitors during exhibition hours, as well as for evening diners once the gallery closes.
Photos: Olivia McEwan © artlyst 2015