From Decay to Display: Atmospheric Christo exhibition inside a derelict Spitalfields house

A derelict building in Spitalfields has opened its doors for a rare chance to peer beyond the locked doors, thanks to an art exhibition which is taking place inside.

The derelict building is 4 Princelet Street, often said to have a frontage that’s the most photographed building in Spitalfields thanks to its decoratively decaying pinkish plasterwork. Going through those usually locked doors, you step into a 300-year old Huguenot weaver’s house that Gagosian has taken over to show off early works by the artist duo, Christo.

Christo is famous for covering huge buildings with wraps and concealing them, but this exhibition looks at their earlier works when they were creating more domestic-sized art. Putting modern art into unusual locations isn’t that new an idea, but here, the genre has taken advantage of a unique environment inside a building that proudly wears its age.

As Christo is so much more famous for the huge-scale art installations wrapping entire buildings, they are known for spectacle, creating something huge and transforming the familiar into something new on a monumental scale.

But before they got big, there were small pieces. The works dotted around the building are these early pieces by Christo, ranging from as small as a pair of shoes right up to large wooden crates. It delivers a sense of the familiar and disconnected as they are covered up, leaving only rough shapes as echoes of what lies within.

Easy to miss on the ground floor is a wrapped Jerry Can that almost vanishes into the brickwork. Others are described simply as “package” that’s been wrapped and left to you to decide what they might contain, if you want to.

Undeniably, though, the art’s setting within the derelict building makes this an exceptional exhibition. Somehow, it just works, and it’s going to be a cold-hearted person who isn’t wandering up and down the ancient stairs to explore the building and stumble upon works of modern art in the rooms.

The fusion of the two creates an experience. Which admirably fits with Christo’s ethos – who had previously said their projects contained no deeper meaning than their immediate aesthetic impact; their purpose being simply for joy, beauty, and new ways of seeing the familiar.

As an experience, it strongly reminded me of when the Isokon flats were taken over in 2001, just before their restoration, letting people wander around the small rooms looking for art.

The exhibition, Christo – Early Works is at 4 Princelet Street daily until Sunday 22nd October and is open between 10am to 6pm.

It’s free to visit. You don’t need to book in advance, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if there are queues at times, as the staircase is narrow, so there’s a limit to how many people can go inside at a time.

And do pick up the guide, as I suspect a few people will hang it up as a poster. You’ll understand when you collect a copy.

There will also be another Christo exhibition, taking place at the Saatchi Gallery in November.

This article was published on ianVisits


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