Artist and curator Robert Gordon McHarg III founded the Subway Gallery last year and on 6th of June 2006, the gallery joined the rest of London's art scene. While some galleries like to say they are underground, this one is undeniably so. It's in a pedestrian subway, still open to the public, still used by many people trying to get from one side of Edgware Road to the other. It's, like, totally underground.
The "kubrickesque" subway underneath the Edgware Road and Harrow Road junction in W2 is a subterranean series of pedestrian paths, connecting some key London features via fluorescent-lit tunnels. If you go down the stairs and get a bit lost, you could come up to ground level next to Paddington Green Police Station, the Metropole Hilton Hotel or, if you're very unlucky, the traffic island under the Westway Marylebone flyover. It smells less of piss and Westminster City Council tramp-deterrent bleach than it used to but it is still a fairly daunting place to navigate. As a regular user of the subway, we know it can be quite unnerving to descend into such a quiet space only a few feet below four lanes of busy traffic and the flyover. The disorientating rabbit warren layout is confusing if you're not keeping your wits about you, and the orange / yellow colour scheme isn't very comforting.
It's just been screaming out for some contemporary, cutting edge art.
The Subway Gallery is housed in a 1960s stainless steel and glass kiosk which used to be a shoe repair booth; there is still a newsagent in the neighbouring kiosk. A programme of exhibitions for the gallery space can be found on the website here, but also check out The Black Wall. Sponsorship from the Vladivar foundation allows McHarg to host a monthly underground exhibition on the a 2 x 13.5 metre disused wall; the current Black Wall installation is Have You Seen Him?, a set of 24 portraits of notorious art collector Charles Saatchi, each one showing him in a different guise. Walking along the Black Wall, it's like a bank of Mr Saatchi Potato Heads. Says McHarg the artist: "It's all about the artist collecting the collector, a David and Goliath battle over power and punch lines."
The DIY efforts of McHarg and his commitment to his Subway Gallery vision has transformed an unloved but functional, intimidating but necessary space into a "dynamic urban art experience, engaging with the public on their journey elsewhere." We very much like the idea of having a dynamic urban art experience while on our journey elsewhere; it looks like taking London's underground paths is the place to go for that.
The Subway Gallery and Black Wall, Kiosk 1, Pedestrian Subway at Edgware Road / Harrow Road, London W2. For more information, go to the gallery website here.