One of the best galleries in London, for real. My love affair with this gallery started through a lucky accident. I was flat hunting at that time when I saw a poster of a Guy Bourdin exhibition on the wall of some old building, which appeared to be a former Hydraulic Power Station, now the home of The Wapping Project Gallery.
The exhibition’s presentation was so unusual, it was like nothing I have ever seen before. Guy Bourdin’s prints were hanging in the air in the dark, there were red velvet curtains everywhere and the floor was covered with bright green fake grass. It all looked like a scene from one of David Linch’s movies.
As you probably might have guessed I ended up moving into that area and went to The Wapping Project’s every exhibition ever since.
The whole project is the brainchild of Dr. Jules Wright. Originally from Australia, she made a name for herself by running one of the coolest theaters in town, the Royal Court Theater, before scooping the Hydraulic Power Station’s building from the Port of London Authority. Jules’s husband is an architect, so it makes sense that he was responsible for the building’s makeover. Although when you come here, your first impression would be is as if nothing here has changed. The old machinery is still present, the brick walls look run down, etc. But to what’s different is that there is a huge photography portfolio reflecting all the work that has been done here.
The Wapping Project is also a home to a restaurant whose profits fund the actual gallery. It serves modern European cuisine and has an extensive wine list. The average bill without drink is £30-40.
In the courtyard there is a cute greenhouse which is actually a bookstore. It is only open in the evenings, from Thursday to Saturday, and it has a massive choice of books on Art, Design, and Architecture. During the summer, there are open-air cinema screenings for just £5.
One of the trees in the courtyard serves as an exhibition space, too. First, it displayed a multitude of yellow birdhouses, and now it is covered in blue chairs, doors, and ladders. It’s like a fairy tale.:)
Some other exhibitions which I remember very well were of a Yoji Yamamoto dress hanging upside down in the air, mysteriously lit, while all the gallery’s space was filled with water. For £5, you could rent a pair of Wellington boots and have a ride on the boat.
Another memorable thing was a photo movie, directed by Jules herself. It consisted of 84 photographs telling the story of two childhood sweethearts who met at their parents vineyard and many years later had a fling but nothing worked out. The gallery’s floor was covered with the real vineyard’ s soil and each photograph was so beautiful and dramatic. Clothes were excellently sourced too. I came to see that movie many, many times.
Wapping Hydraulic Power Station,
E1W 3SG, London.