Here, local journalist Oliver Horton presents our guide to Shoreditch’s culture spots.
Right next to Aldgate East tube station, Whitechapel Gallery has championed contemporary art since 1901. Modern masters including Pablo Picasso (Guernica in 1938), Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock (first UK exhibition in 1958) and Frida Kahlo have exhibited here; likewise current modernists such as Mark Wallinger, Sarah Lucas and Thomas Struth. As well as the galleries the historic building houses archives and hosts art courses while the café/bar and bookshop will fuel your inspiration.
77-82 Whitechapel High St, E1 7QX
Banksy’s street art is closely associated with the streets of Shoreditch, but the remaining examples of his work anywhere in London are few and far between – having been painted over by local councils or chipped away by money-hungry collectors. The richest site for surviving work is cobbled Rivington Street. Bar/club Cargo, which hosted a Banksy exhibition around the time he emerged into the mainstream, has Guard Dog behind Perspex in its garden space (a security guard with a poodle). Elsewhere on the street look for His Master’s Voice: a terrier dog pointing a bazooka at a gramophone. His last work sold for $1.4million but you can look at these for free (maybe buy a drink at Cargo).
Cargo, 83 Rivington Street, EC2A 3AY
Dennis Severs’ House
There’s vintage and then there’s Dennis Severs’ House. This 20th Century artist’s brought-to-life painting: tour through a living portrait of Huguenot silk weavers from 1724 onwards via a series of candlelit rooms, sounds and smells – as if the family are just out of sight in the next room. A feast for the imagination, as well as a tribute to the artist’s dedication to detail (Severs lived in the house in its present arrangement), a visit is a transformative and informative experience.
18 Folgate Street, E1 6BX
Founded by Kurt Beers, a former political staffer and Canadian Mountie and author of 100 Painters of Tomorrow, Beers Gallery is one of London’s most progressive spaces for contemporary art. Not far from the Old Street roundabout, so proper hipster Shoreditch, the space breaks emerging talent as well as offering a showcase to mid-career artists and not a few Canadians.
1 Baldwin Street, EC1V 9NU
A Sunday institution, if you happen to be staying beyond the show dates, is Columbia Road flower market, where dyed-in-the-wool cockneys rub against latter-day imports such as hipsters and Europeans. If you can summon the strength to fight your way through amateur photographers, the heroically hungover and all the world’s baby buggies, this is a lively, colourful and sweet-smelling detour, also home to antiques. Worth a look at any time for an evocation of London past, when the closest thing to an Uber was a horse and women didn’t go out after dark for fear of Jack The Ripper.
Columbia Road, E2