A Century of the Artist’s Studio: 1920 – 2020 at Whitechapel Gallery

April 23, 2022

‘If I was an artist and I was in the Studio, then everything I was doing in the Studio would be art…’ Bruce Nauman

‘A Century of the Artist’s Studio: 1920 – 2020’, at Whitechapel Gallery, presents a 100-year survey of the studio through the work of artists and image-makers from around the world. The exhibition shows us art and its development in many forms: as part of a performance; a private process documented by those close or privileged; as a collective or groups of inspiring individuals; as well as art and studios created against adversity. A space where an artist feels comfortable and creative, a studio in its own right.

Early in the exhibition, we see a replica of ‘La Perla Negra: Plaza de Armas’, a public studio and performance piece by Nikhil Chopra for the 2015 Havana Biennial. Nikhil lived in a cage on the Plaza de Armas on public view, painting what he saw through the bars. Combining the studio, performance, and art he made the private studio public, creating an opportunity to view the creative process.

A more solitary practice is represented through pieces from the House of Maud Lewis, in Nova Scotia. Unable to afford canvas, Maud painted the cabin and its contents. Suffering from severe arthritis, her art became an outlet and escape from her reality and pain. Painting a garden paradise of flowers, butterflies, and birds her studio became a sanctuary and a coping mechanism.

Pieces from Manisha Gera Baswani’s ‘Artist Through the Lens’ show informal photographs of artists and their studios from a position of familiarity, and intimate documentation.

Comparatively, a look at the more hedonistic studio collectives came in a representation of ‘The Silver Factory’ a studio space converted from an abandoned hat factory in Manhattan by Andy Warhol, famous for creating spaces facilitating collaboration and experimentation.

 Vanessa Bella and Duncan Grant (1879-1961) (1885 – 1978) Chimney Piece Objects (Left Image). Andy Warhol (1928 -1987) The Silver Factory (Top Right Image). Nikhil Chopra (1974) La Perla Negra: Plaza de Armas (Bottom Right Image).

Similarly, yet some could say more wholesome, we learn of the studio and home of the Bloomsbury Group, a collective of artists, writers, and thinkers. Vanessa Bella and Duncan Grant rented a farmhouse in East Sussex and, as a collective, the Bloomsbury Group decorated every room and fitting, creating textiles, ceramics, and wallpapers, ‘art that is both beautiful and useful’.

Together, Iwona Blazwick and her team have curated a captivating experience, one that captures the individual, sometimes chaotic processes of artists, both famous and relatively unknown, as well as the unique value in the process.

Art can often feel passive or insular. However, this exhibition gives the audience an insight into the process, building a connection between audience and artist.

Having previously worked in sustainable fashion, we often spoke about transparency and the importance of knowing the story behind things.

Many may not describe themselves as a follower of fashion but are influenced by the clothes they consume and wear, similarly we often consume art and culture without even realising it. I felt that ‘A Century of the Artist’s Studio’ demonstrated the uniqueness of the development process, communicating the methodology and places in which art is formed to offer further understanding of its importance and value.

About the author

Rosie Niblock, Marketing and Communications Executive, Creative Land Trust.

Rosie Niblock is Marketing and Communications Executive at the Creative Land Trust. Rosie joined the organisation in its early development, managing all stages of branding relating to our business, activation of space and portfolio. Rosie now manages events, marketing and PR including the Trust’s philanthropic strategy.

Rosie graduated with a degree in Fashion and Marketing before supporting organisations working to make a positive impact on people and the planet. Alongside her work she has secured a diploma in digital marketing and is currently working on a certificate in fundraising. Rosie is particularly interested in public art and art for social cause.