London Gallery Weekend a Hit

Melanie Gerlis, Financial Times, June 10, 2021

There was praise aplenty for the first London Gallery Weekend, which livened up activity at 137 of the city's independent spaces just when it was needed (June 4-6). Most participating galleries were notably busier than usual, despite the London rain that graced opening day.


At Stephen Friedman Gallery, which opened three exhibitions, there was "a constant stream of a mix of visitors", says Mira Dimitrova, director of sales. All works by the sculptor Leilah Babirye sold out ($15,000-$50,000). Babirye had to flee Uganda in 2015 when she was outed as gay and was granted asylum in the US in 2018.


Works by another African artist, Marc Padeu from Cameroon, had already sold out at Jack Bell Gallery ($45,000-$55,000), but visitors happily engaged with his eye-catching work. "Many said it was their first time in a commercial gallery," says director Oly Durey.  


Still more could be done to unite London's disparate galleries and help make the weekend a viable alternative to art fairs, which are considerably pricier for exhibitors. Suggestions include more programming of performances and talks and even "food trucks that hop between the galleries", suggests exhibitor Lyndsey Ingram, who described the event overall as "a good first stab". Most expect the collaboration to become an annual fixture.


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