The headquarters of the Guts Gallery, which started three years ago as a nomadic gallery championing emerging and underrepresented voices in art, has moved to a permanent space in Hackney, east London .
Founded by “Northern working-class queer” Ellie Pennick as a traveling project space (it only began selling work in 2020), Guts was created with a mission to disrupt the model traditional art world commercialism that “leaves artists and staff undervalued and underpaid”. “, says Pennick.
He has drawn attention to London’s saturated business scene for his outspoken manifesto, prominently displayed on his website, which outlines a set of practices aimed at countering what Pennick perceives to be structural ills plaguing the retail industry. art, in particular racism, classism and abelism. As well as working almost exclusively with artists from underserved backgrounds and identities, the gallery also pays its staff above the London living wage and takes a below-average cut in sales.
Its new location, located in a warehouse at Hackney Downs station, has 1,500 square feet of exhibition space and is accessible via a lift allowing people with reduced mobility to easily enter the space.
Moving to a brick-and-mortar building may seem out of step with the makeshift spirit of Guts’ initial model, which saw him stage pop-up exhibitions in disused commercial spaces, supplementing his lack of a permanent physical gallery with an active presence on Instagram. But that model has since become unsustainable as rents for temporary spaces in central London, which fell during the outbreak of Covid-19, are on the rise again.
“After the pandemic, nomadic rental became more expensive than renting a permanent space,” says Pennick. “I decided to move to a permanent gallery space to provide stability for the artists we work with and the Guts team. In addition to reducing our carbon emissions by using less transportation.”
Still, Pennick maintains that Instagram and other digital platforms will remain central to the gallery’s strategy, not least because they enable access to its program by people who don’t live in London.
The gallery currently has a permanent list of eight artists it “defends” rather than represents, including Olivia Sterling, who received a solo exhibition last year at Goldsmith’s CCA, and painter Emanuel de Carvalho. And while Pennick expresses a desire to see that number grow, she’s determined to do so in a “sustainable way” that ensures all Guts artists and staff “remain best served.”
The inaugural exhibition will be a solo exhibition (until March 3) of sculptures and sound installations by Corbin Shaw (a Sheffield ‘compatriot’ from the North, says Pennick) that examines spiritualism and the legacy of the Empire UK in the context of rural communities in Yorkshire. Opening tomorrow will feature Morris dancers from Croydon and an installation made with dirt that Pennick ‘discovered the hard way’ contains manure. This had the unintended, but appropriate, side effect of giving London’s subversive new gallery “the smell of Yorkshire”.