Whitechapel Gallery

The Whitechapel Gallery is a public art gallery in Whitechapel on the north side of Whitechapel High Street, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Designed by Charles Harrison Townsend, it was opened in 1901 as one of the first publicly funded galleries for temporary exhibitions in London, and it has a long track record for education and outreach projects, focused on local people. It exhibits the work of contemporary artists, as well as organising retrospective exhibitions and shows that are of interest to the local community.[1]

Whitechapel Gallery
Location within Central London
Established1901 (1901)
LocationWhitechapel High Street
London, E1
United Kingdom
Coordinates51.515984°N 0.070485°W / 51.515984; -0.070485
Visitors490,000 (April 2009 – April 2010)
DirectorIwona Blazwick
Public transit access Aldgate East


The Whitechapel Gallery exhibited Pablo Picasso's Guernica in 1938 as part of a touring exhibition organised by Roland Penrose to protest against the Spanish Civil War.[2]

The Whitechapel Gallery played an important part in the history of post-war British art, several important exhibitions were held at the Whitechapel Gallery including This is Tomorrow in 1956, the first UK exhibition by Mark Rothko in 1961, and in 1964 The New Generation show which featured John Hoyland, Bridget Riley, David Hockney and Patrick Caulfield among others.[3][4][5][6][7]

Initiated by members of the Independent Group, the exhibition brought Pop Art to the general public as well as introducing some of the artists, concepts, designers and photographers that would define the Swinging Sixties.

Throughout its history, the Whitechapel Gallery had a series of open exhibitions that were a strong feature for the area's artist community, but by the early 1990s these open shows became less relevant as emerging artists moved to other areas.

In the late 1970s, the critical importance of the Whitechapel Gallery was displaced by newer venues such as the Hayward Gallery, but in the 1980s the Gallery enjoyed a resurgence under the Directorship of Nicholas Serota. The Whitechapel Gallery had a major refurbishment in 1986 and completed, in April 2009, a two-year programme of work to incorporate the former Passmore Edwards Library building next door, vacated when Whitechapel Idea Store opened. This has doubled the physical size of the Gallery and nearly tripled the available exhibition space, and now allows the Whitechapel Gallery to remain open to the public all year round.[8]

Notable Exhibitions

1956 – This is Tomorrow exhibit[9]

1958 – American abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock

1961 – Mark Rothko. The installation of his work at the Whitechapel becomes his template for all subsequent shows

1964 – The New Generation – Painting – showcasing the work of John Hoyland,[10] Patrick Caulfield, David Hockney, Paul Huxley, Alan Jones and Bridget Riley.[11][12][13]

1965 – The New Generation – Sculpture – showcasing the work of Philip King, David Annesley, Michael Bolus, Tim Scott, William Tucker, Isaac Witkin [14] [15]

1970 and 1971 – David Hockney retrospective, first major shows of Gilbert & George and Richard Long

1982 – Frida Kahlo [16]

`986 Victor Willing, a retrospective exhibition

1993 – The Whitechapel Gallery showcases Lucian Freud

2001 and 2002 – Liam Gillick and Nan Goldin stage their first major solo shows in the UK

2008 – Cornelia Parker's film Chomskian Abstract, featuring Noam Chomsky

2009 – Retrospective of Isa Genzken's work and solo shows for Sophie Calle and Elizabeth Peyton

2010 – Survey of Alice Neel's portraits in Britain

19–20 January 2011 the gallery hosted the inaugural Northern Future Forum gathering of prime ministers.[17]

2011 – First UK survey of German artist Thomas Struth, one of the photographers of the late 20th century

2012 – A comprehensive survey of Turner Prize winning British artist Gillian Wearing

2013 – The first major solo exhibition in London for YBA artist Sarah Lucas

2014 – Five decade survey of North American Richard Tuttle, which was presented in conjunction with a major installation in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall and solo show for Dada pioneer Hannah Höch

2015 – The first show in Britain on Arab Modernism 'Imperfect Chronology: Arab Art from the Modern to the Contemporary', from the Barjeel Art Foundation collection[18]

2016 – A new commission by feminist activism art group Guerrilla Girls and major retrospective of British artist Eduardo Paolozzi

2017 – A major retrospective of German artist Thomas Ruff and solo show for British artist Benedict Drew

2018 – A solo show for Mark Dion and the first major UK survey of artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset


Since 1923, art has been presented alongside education. A not-for-profit educational charity, the Whitechapel has pioneered artists’ residencies in schools and other education innovations that have been adopted as models across the UK and internationally. The current education programme focuses on four main areas - schools & teachers, children & families, youth and lastly community.

Highlights include The NEON Curatorial Exchange which is delivered in partnership with NEON[19] Organisation in Athens. It builds links between emerging curators in the UK and Greece, so that best practice can be shared and new ideas developed, with the aim of championing curatorial excellence. Since 2009 the gallery has invited a series of writers and artists to take up the position of Writer in Residence. The residency programme features discussions, performances and interventions, considering how writing is experienced through the lens of contemporary art.


In 2006 Whitechapel Gallery and MIT Press formed an editorial alliance to produce a new series of books entitled Documents of Contemporary Art.


The Whitechapel reopened on 4 April 2009 after a two-year project, which approximately doubled the size of the Gallery by incorporating the former neighbouring library building. The work cost approximately £13.5 million and was partly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. A full-size tapestry based on Pablo Picasso's Guernica, by Jacqueline de la Baume Dürrbach and loaned from the United Nations Art Collection, was included in the inaugural exhibition by Goshka Macuga.[20][21] and Isa Genzken.[22]

As part of the expansion, a new Archive Gallery, a reading room and an archive repository (where the Whitechapel's historic records are held) have been created to support the Whitechapel's standing as an educational charity. The archives catalogue the very conception of the gallery, as well as the complete directors' files of correspondence which reveal the reasons behind key decisions in the Gallery's history.[23]



  1. http://www.passmoreedwards.org.uk/pages/history/Libraries/Whitechapel%20art%20gallery/history%201.htm
  2. Gijs van Hensbergen (2004). Guernica: The biography of a twentieth-century icon. Bloomsbury. pp. 82–96. ISBN 1582341249.
  3. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/journalists/alastair-sooke/5061519/Whitechapel-Gallery-reopens-Guernica-returns-to-its-first-British-home.html
  4. http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/3rd-april-1964/18/new-generation-1964
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/aug/01/john-hoyland-obituary
  6. http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/academicians/painters/john-hoyland-ra,181,AR.html
  7. Juliff, Toby (2018). "'A New Generation of British Art: A Problem of Provincialism'". Sydney: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art. p. 125-145.
  8. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/journalists/alastair-sooke/5061519/Whitechapel-Gallery-reopens-Guernica-returns-to-its-first-British-home.html
  9. http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/exhibitions/this-is-tomorrow/
  10. http://www.johnhoyland.com/the-new-generation-1964-by-bryan-robertson-2/
  11. Lambirth, Andrew (2009). John Hoyland: Scatter the Devils. Norwich: Unicorn Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-1-906509-07-1.
  12. http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/3rd-april-1964/18/new-generation-1964
  13. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/aug/01/john-hoyland-obituary
  14. http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/n/new-generation-sculpture
  15. Juliff, Toby (2018). "'A New Generation of British Art: A Problem of Provincialism'". Sydney: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art. p. 125-145.
  16. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/journalists/alastair-sooke/5061519/Whitechapel-Gallery-reopens-Guernica-returns-to-its-first-British-home.html
  17. Johnson, Paul (24 January 2011). "Reaching the summit". The British Ambassador to Sweden blogs on The Local. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  18. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/06/arts/international/whitechapel-gallery-in-london-brings-modern-arab-art-to-the-world.html
  19. "Home - NEON". NEON. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  20. "In praise of ... Guernica". The Guardian. 26 March 2009. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
  21. "Art gallery extension completed". BBC News. 31 March 2009.
  22. "Iwona Blazwik on the Whitechapel. Interview by Oliver Basciano". ARTINFO. 4 June 2009.
  23. Yiakoumaki, Nayia. "The Whitechapel Opens its Archive", Apollo (magazine), 2009-03-01. 2009-05-28.
  24. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/4722693/A-miracle-in-the-East-End.html
  25. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/4722693/A-miracle-in-the-East-End.html
  26. Juliff, Toby (2018). "'A New Generation of British Art: A Problem of Provincialism'". Sydney: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art. p. 125-145.
  27. http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/24th-march-2001/52/battles-with-my-trustees
  28. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/4722693/A-miracle-in-the-East-End.html
  29. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/journalists/alastair-sooke/5061519/Whitechapel-Gallery-reopens-Guernica-returns-to-its-first-British-home.html

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