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Inside a historic Spitalfield's house hosting an exhibition designed to take on London art elitism

 (Ollie Hammick)
(Ollie Hammick)

An exhibition at a stunning Grade-II listed building in Spitalfields is set to be an art highlight for early Spring; one which unites two pioneering organisations.

Contemporary art platform Canopy Collections has joined with artists’ app Gertrude for a new free exhibition called Pourquoi London, which aims to “take on the elitist and exclusionary vibe in London”.

And Evening Standard readers are invited to a special curator’s tour on the Saturday 23rd March at 4pm (details below).

The exhibition, running from 22nd to 24th March is shunning the usual ‘white cube’ gallery space by presenting the artworks in a historic house at 4 Princelet Street.

4 Princelet Street in Spitalfields is Grade-II listed (Ollie Hammick)
4 Princelet Street in Spitalfields is Grade-II listed (Ollie Hammick)

The exhibition is created by Will Jarvis, CEO of Gertrude, and Louise Chignac, co-founder and director of Canopy Collections and will present 70 artworks by over 30 artists.

Chignac discovered the building at another show where she found that she “preferred the building to the art”.

Located in the Spitalfield’s conservation area, 4 Princelet Street dates from the 18th century and housed the families of migrant workers and artisan refugees living and working in the area.

Will Jarvis and Louise Chignac, curators of Pourquoi London (Ollie Hammick)
Will Jarvis and Louise Chignac, curators of Pourquoi London (Ollie Hammick)

Jarvis and Chignac hope that choosing a house over a traditional setting will allow for a more interesting interaction between art and gallery space, as well as bring echoes of the area’s past.

The intention, as with their respective platforms, is not simply to showcase new artists but to provide a friendly route into buying art for new and curious collectors.

“We live in a world that is more visual than ever yet buying art feels like a commitment: people get scared,” says Chignac, who met the Standard for a tour around the building, which feels as though it’s from another era.

“The cost can be a barrier – although they may spend the same amount of money on a handbag – but the mental limit is really about what it does to you. You can feel exposed.”

The curators chose the house to bring in echoes of the area’s past (Ollie Hammick)
The curators chose the house to bring in echoes of the area’s past (Ollie Hammick)

Jarvis agrees, saying “There’s a cultural chasm that makes people think they’re not entitled to have an opinion about art. But it’s an emotive thing – if you have a feeling about something, that is valid.”

He adds, “We need to get to a place in the world where we feel ok about our opinions and aren’t so reliant on a collective opinion.”

Their respective platforms operate very much on that basis of inclusivity.

 (Ollie Hammick)
(Ollie Hammick)

Gertrude is an app like an ‘Instagram for artists’, and Canopy Collections are more hands-on with artists, but both are about showcasing emerging talent and encouraging new collectors who are usually excluded from the baffling and somewhat secretive way art sales often work.

“We offer a transparent route to acquisition,” smiles Will.

“Friendliness is built into both platforms and that’s extended to this event. We want people to feel like they can come. You don’ have to buy anything, just come and see the work. But if there is something that does speak to you, the transparency is there so you don’t need to feel terrified by the process of buying artwork.”

 (Ollie Hammick)
(Ollie Hammick)

But what’s more important to Chignac is continuing on the history of London art since the 90s, “this scene of artists, like the YBA’s willing to do things for themselves and be very independent: ‘we can’t rely on the system, so let’s do things by ourselves.’”

While the pair are coy about whether this is just the start of both platforms working together, they naturally share a desire to reinvigorate the independent art scene.

“Competition in the world has run its course: it’s about collaboration now,” Chignac says.

In the spirit of this inclusivity, the pair are offering Evening Standard readers a chance to have a free special curator’s tour of the exhibition on Saturday 23rd March at 4pm.

Book your slot by emailing: contact@canopy-collections.com . Families welcome.

Otherwise, this intimate exhibition is limited to 50 people an hour between 10am-6pm each day from 22nd to 24th, and while you can turn up to see it, it is recommended that you book your visit here.