As the doors are about to open on Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art, Sophie Breitsameter speaks to its Director, Sarah McCrory, about how the space will work with the university, Argentinian video artist Mika Rottenberg’s inaugural exhibition there and how the London art scene is changing
Art lovers rejoice, for London is welcoming a new world class art space – and one with a unique personality, to boot. With a reputation as one of the world’s top university’s for art practice, Goldsmiths will soon be building on this status with a new contemporary art gallery in the form of the Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA). Located in South East London in the university’s New Cross campus, the CCA will host world-class exhibitions, projects and artist residences sure to provide a stimulating source of creativity for both Goldsmith’s students and the public.
The space has been designed by Turner Prize-winning architecture firm Assemble, whose notable projects include Yardhouse – a Stratford-based workspace adorned in colourful scales, which, upon closer inspection, reveal themselves to have been cleverly created out of concrete. They are also the brains behind the stunning hodgepodge window façade of the quirky Kamikatz Brewery on Shikoku Island, Japan.
For the CCA, Assemble has converted a network of historical Grade II listed spaces in South east London, preserving original features such as disused Victorian-era baths and cast-iron water tanks to create a unique and idiosyncratic exhibition space. CCA’s Director, Sarah McCrory who has previously worked as curator of the esteemed art festival Glasgow International and of Frieze art fair reveals all…
At the Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art new meets old. Tell us a bit about the building…
Assemble’s treatment of the building incorporates the new and old but without compromising or hiding either aspect of the building. There’s a sense of honesty and openness in how it’s been made, with their design tying together both existing and new structures. The build is also a redevelopment borne from some constraints: it’s Grade II listed which has steered their approach. That being said, my history includes commissioning numerous site-specific projects, and some of the exhibitions I make will take this into account across the very diverse galleries.
How did you choose Mika Rottenberg for your inaugural exhibition?
I’ve long admired Mika’s work and showed two pieces in a group show in Glasgow International. For me, the appeal is that her work is at once political and rigorous, but also absurd and humorous. By making this show, we were able to commission two new videos, as well as show works from the last 10 years, creating a solo show which – being in a university gallery – allows younger artists to experience her work possibly for the first time. It also allows them to form a picture of her practice from which to develop a public programme that can then delve into the themes and ideas in the works.
What would you like the space to achieve over the next five years?
The plan is to make the gallery a site for exploring different kinds of exhibition-making, and to be very broad in our approach. This would include exhibiting artists with a popular appeal but also showing works with a strong research basis, creating newly commissioned exhibitions as well as historical group shows. I want to embrace a diverse approach that is also reflected in the kinds of artists we show – from recent graduates to those no longer with us. Also, it’s important that we aren’t wedded to a strict plan and that we are agile enough o be able to change direction or try other things out. The joy of being based within a university like Goldsmiths allows us that freedom.
Having recently returned from Glasgow, during your time away, have you seen any changes in the art scene in London?
Oof. Yes. Lots of people have left, but also lots have returned. I think artists moving to other cities and towns in Britain is a great thing as the UK has always been so London-centric (Open School East in Margate, for example, has become the centre of a really interesting small art scene). London will always be great for artists, but local councils will have to work hard to offer opportunities to those who actually want to stay. I’m also pretty heartened by new spaces that have started since I left, doing amazing things at a grassroots level, such as Jupiter Woods, clearview, The Bower, and more.
The gallery will host residencies ‘within a university environment’ – can you tell us a bit more about this?
We’d like artists to come to New Cross, live in London and spend time working between the gallery and the university. As it’s to be artist-led so hopefully this will look different for every resident. That will be in collaboration with our Curator (Engagement) role being recruited shortly, and we hope to kick that off in the new year. For now we are focusing on opening and developing audiences across the borough and further afield, which is a big task for a new space.
Are there any upcoming events at the gallery that you would like to tell our readers about?
The gallery opens to the public on 8 September and our full public programme will go live soon. We will also then open a second exhibition on 6 October by Ivor Cutler, alongside Mika’s show. All information will be on our website soon.
Main image courtesy of Assemble. Images courtesy of the artist