June 16, 2024
Art Gallery

In London, new galleries are sparking an artistic renaissance

‘Given what’s happening with the economy, it might not make sense, but I don’t think there’s ever a perfect time to open a gallery; you just have to go for it,’ says Helen Neven, who opened her diminutive gallery in a former cab office in Bethnal Green 8 months ago. ‘Contrary to the competitiveness that the gallery industry is historically known for, there’s a lot of solidarity among us younger galleries, which is a vital support.’ 

Neven notes how Bethnal Green has not been immune to gentrification, but she observes ‘a certain DIY way of doing things, a certain scrappiness’ in the area, which is conducive for artists. ‘Despite London being a notoriously expensive city to open a business in, there has always been this appetite for and interest in the new generation of creatives. That’s always been part of London’s DNA,’ she adds. 

A DIY spirit does not always translate into sales, however. As the Art Basel and UBS report notes, after showing much resilience to intense economic and political pressures in 2021 and 2022, sales in the UK market fell by 8% to USD 10.9 billion in 2023 (and 11% below its pre-pandemic level). Even at the comparatively affordable emerging end of the market, Neven observes that some of her loyal collectors are ‘having to be a bit more selective,’ though she points out that she has been ‘selling consistently.’

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