by Sam Murray
A person. A legend. A contemporary art gallery.
Well, actually, two contemporary art galleries. One in the backstreets between Old Street and Angel stations, the other edging a canal in Venice, Italy. One’s right next to a drive-through McDonald’s – no prizes for guessing which.
Miro – the person – is an art dealer considered by many to be among the best in the UK. She’s a Londoner too; her father was the owner of a grocery stall in Covent Garden. You could say she knows her onions.
She opened the first Victoria Miro Gallery in Cork Street, Mayfair, in 1985, before moving to the current larger London outlet at the turn of the millennium. It’s a tucked-away spot occupying a one-time furniture factory; the entrance is an inconspicuous blue door with “16 Victoria Miro” in white above the letterbox.
Yayoi Kusama’s Chandelier of Grief – image credit Bex Walton/Flickr
Once inside, you’ve a choice of three exhibition spaces. The first lies straight ahead, a sugar cube box with tall ceilings and not a lot else (except some of the finest contemporary art in the country, of course). The second is immediately left and up a time-warped staircase that leads to a loft. The exposed-wood beams and gabled roof are a show-stealer.
Reach the third by going straight through the main exhibition hall and out into the garden (more on which later) to enter an adjoining building. Clamber up the many stairs – the lift is a knee-and-calf saver – to a stretching room with dark-wood floors and a window-wall at the far end.
The gallery as a whole provides plenty of reasons to return – the rotating exhibitions come from Miro’s collection of 40-or-so contemporary artists, the best-known including Grayson Perry and Yayoi Kusama (whose infinity rooms appeared here a few years back, and have now sold out at the Tate).
Once you’re done perusing the ever-changing exhibitions, get out into that garden – known as the Waterside Garden – to read a book, chat about art and generally look super-cultured by an inner-city pond (actually a finely manicured section of the Wenlock Basin canal).
It’s about as close to Venice as you’ll get while still being within walking distance of a McDonald’s drive-through.
NOTE: The Victoria Miro Gallery is open Tuesday – Saturday when exhibitions are on. You can see what’s currently on display, and find out more, HERE.
Victoria Miro Gallery | 16 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW
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