London Gallery Weekend Underscores an Art Scene in Flux

The fourth edition of the three-day event offers a 'soft selling tool' outside of fairs.

Photo: Linda Nylind. Courtesy of London Gallery Weekend.

This week, London Gallery Weekend (LGW) returns for a fourth edition running from May 31 to June 2. The line-up features a total of 134 galleries—including 16 new participants—and more than 70 free events across the three-day event.

The initiative is positioned primarily as a public event to get people out to see art (last year 50,000 visitors were recorded), rather than a market moment in which dealers push sales. Yet the annual occasion has quickly become an important opportunity for participating galleries to demonstrate their breadth and resilience in light of recent challenges like Brexit and the pandemic, which have dampened spirits as well as sales in the U.K. capital. Moreover, it offers a chance to corner collectors and curators without paying the steep overhead of a fair booth, which is especially useful for the many new and small galleries that have been popping up in the city recently.

A group of people performing on a grassland, surrounded by a

Li Hei Di, The Willow Tree at Hoxton Square during London Gallery Weekend 2023. Photo: Linda Nylind. Courtesy of London Gallery Weekend.

“We are not presenting something that is an alternative [to the fairs],” noted Sarah Rustin, co-director of London Gallery Weekend. “Any gallery weekend is something that really is an opportunity to best represent and show the changing landscape of a gallery scene.”

London’s gallery scene has been shifting as of late, a fact that can be illustrated by simply comparing this year’s list of participating galleries with that from last year. Some notable galleries that were part of last year’s line-up of 123 galleries include Simon Lee, Darren Flook, Fold, and Marlborough Gallery; all of these have either ceased operation or are about to. Nevertheless, not only has the number of participating galleries gone up by just under 10 percent, nine of the 16 galleries making their debut are new to the scene, having just opened within the last year.

“It seemed an obvious choice for us as a young gallery. It’s another good way of putting ourselves out there and getting more people into the space,” said Will Hainsworth, co-founder and director of Palmer Gallery, one of the new participants of the event this year. The gallery opened in March in Lisson Grove, focusing on emerging cross-disciplinary artists. The price points for its upcoming group show for the weekend, “Land, Sea, Air,” range from £1,000 to £12,000 ($1,274 to $15,289).

“We launched the gallery because we felt that London had a thriving emerging art scene that wouldn’t be hugely impacted by a more general market slump,” he added, nodding to the inflationary pressures that have plagued the art market since 2023. “Younger galleries would be able to succeed by virtue of their low price points and the newfound willingness of bigger galleries to pluck artists from smaller galleries sooner.”

A colourful abstract painting, in various shades of green against a purple backdrop.

Connie Harrison, Lilac Orb (2023). Courtesy of the artist and Palmer Gallery.

While there is a cost to participate, the fee is structured across five tiers to lessen the financial burden on smaller outfits; these range from £500 to £3,300 ($637 to $4,204), according to Jeremy Epstein, the co-founder and director of London Gallery Weekend. How much a gallery contributes is based on its number of staff. This year, there is a concentration of participating galleries at the bottom fee level.

“It’s just that there are many more of the small galleries than the very large galleries,” Epstein noted. “It’s conceptually great and we need to continue to adapt and mould this event and all the initiatives that we do to make sure we serve all of them.”

Due to the scale of London, each of the three days focuses on one area, starting with Central London on Friday, where banners by John Akomfrah, who is representing the U.K. at the Venice Biennale, will be unveiled on Cork Street. Saturday’s events will be focused in South London, while East London gallery offerings will round out the weekend on Sunday.

The 70 free live events range from talks to workshops, such as a performance by artist Eddie Ruscha and poetry reading by poet Matthew Holman at Cedric Bardawil in Central London, a breakfast and exhibition walkthrough with artist Isabella Benshimol Toro at Zéruì in South London, and a workshop for children at A.I. in East London.

Banners in blue and other colours suspended in the air on Cork Street in London.

John Akomfrah’s The Secret Life of Memorable Things, Cork Street Banners Commission 2024. Courtesy Cork Street Galleries and The Pollen Estate. Photo: Luke Hayes.

This year’s performance program, developed in collaboration with public art organization UP Projects, features the Italian-born artist Adelaide Cioni, who works between Umbria and London, and the Egyptian-born, Paris-based Nil Yalter. Both are also having solo exhibitions at galleries The Approach and Ab-Anbar respectively.

In addition to the well-received Curated Routes by leading industry figures and creatives, the Live Curated Routes, launched last year to bring visitors for an in-person gallery tour will also return. Other exhibition highlights include the second presentation of Gagosian Open, the gallery’s off-site exhibition of Nan Goldin’s Sisters, Saints, and Sibyls at the former Welsh chapel on Charing Cross Road. Levy Gorvy Dayan inaugurates its new London space with an exhibition of new paintings by N.Dash. Modern Art will present a solo show by Richard Aldrich across its two London spaces.

As a platform, the event is good for “exposure,” according to Sammi Liu, the founder of Tabula Rasa Gallery originally from Beijing, which opened its London space in 2021. “We see many more visitors in the gallery during [the event].” The gallery is presenting the U.K. solo debut of German painter Kolja Kärtner Sainz during the weekend.

The traffic brought by the event, however, has yet to bring direct sales. The gallery has been selling works to all over the world but London, Liu noted.

“But we do get to meet new people throughout the weekend, especially curators and other creatives. London Gallery Weekend puts London in the art calendar besides Frieze week,” she said. “Sometimes, people just need a reason to visit.”

A woman in a red and white dress of many layers.

Adelaide Cioni (performance) Song for a Square, a Circle, a Triangle (2023), Mimosa House. Photo: Tim Smyth.


Liberte Nuti, an independent art advisor based in London, said gallery weekends offer a “kind of a soft selling tool” but it is the networking opportunities that matter more. Similar events in Berlin and Paris as well as Beijing and Tokyo have been integral to cultivating regional collector bases. London’s gallery weekend is the largest among these and primarily serves the local, grassroots collectors, according to Epstein, though the event is gradually drawing attention from international visitors.

Organizers did not provide the exact figure of international visitors but last year saw the attendance of international collectors from South Korea, U.S., Italy, Belgium, and France. Among the 48,400 followers on London Gallery Weekend’s Instagram, the strongest international following come from New York and Seoul. This year, organizers are expecting to welcome collectors from the U.S., India, Germany, France, Italy, and Belgium.

Strengthening industry connections, particularly with curators and institutions, is one important facets of London Gallery Weekend, noted Rustin. On the heels of the success of last year’s launch of European Curator Bursary Fund, which supports curators from regional museums and galleries from across the U.K. to attend the event, five curators from European institutions have been invited to visit for the weekend. That includes Marianna Vecellio, curator at Castello di Rivoli in Turin, and Tess Praun, director and chief curator of Magasin III in Stockholm.

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