Skip Gallery is exactly what it sounds like. A gallery... in a skip. It has had some great exhibitions in Hoxton Square and now it's relocating to the West End — Selfridges, to be precise. We caught up with the founders — Catherine Borowski and Lee Baker — before the skip moves into the bustling and polished walls of Selfridges in March, as well as two of the artists who will be producing work for Selfridges as part of Skip Gallery's program.
Where did the idea for Skip Gallery come from?
The idea came about during Frieze London 2016 when the whole of the art world descended on London. But Frieze doesn't display works by artists who don't have a gallery, and it's over £30 just to visit, so it's not accessible for emerging artists. We thought it would be a great idea to put a skip next to Frieze so everyone would have to walk past it on the way to the art fair. In the end we didn't get it done in time, but the idea was born and we're still aiming for an intervention at a future Frieze art fair.
The first skip gallery was a memorial to my [Catherine's] mother, and I chose Hoxton Square because my mum lived nearby in Islington and she said no one went to Hoxton like it was a different country, plus Hackney Council were very supportive of the project — they got it.
In contrast when we suggested a skip outside Selfridges to Westminster Council, their response was "You do know it's not April Fool's day yet?"... so we're now having it inside the store.
How did the collaboration with Selfridges come about?
We had an email from someone in the creative department in Selfridges and she came down to see it in Hoxton. She mentioned that they're keen to place art in unexpected spaces and asked us for our proposals. We wanted to show 'off Mayfair' artists, not the established ones that you usually see in the local galleries.
We contacted artists we love including Paul Kindersley, who will be carrying out a daily performance next to the skip for two weeks, and Claire Pearce, who will be making work by having a residency in the fitting rooms in Selfridges.
How does the recycling and making-art-accessible ethos of Skip Gallery chime with the fact that Selfridges is a consumerist temple?
I think it's hilarious. I love the joke. Selfridges themselves enjoy the commentary. The plan was to have it outside but I think it's even better to have it inside right next to Gucci, highlighting the fiscal gap that exists within society. Plus it's a great platform to get the project noticed.
We love galleries and we love art but they're often places where you need to be in the know to visit them. With Skip Gallery, it's something you can just stumble across, and it democratises access to art. We know the power art has, and we want to spread it to as wide an audience as possible.
How many artists will be showing at Selfridges?
We have two artists showing with the skip on the shop floor, each having it for two weeks, and one as a residency in the fitting room upstairs. They're best placed to describe their works so I'll let them explain their plans:
Claire Pearce: I want to develop a work where people can come into the fitting rooms and watch me working in my cubicle through a transparent curtain. I see the fitting room as a place for transformation, where we can dress up and try something on, so I want to create my own mini-fantasy. The work will evolve during the residency so I don't know what the finished output will be
Paul Kindersley: I have two weeks with the skip and I like the idea of it as a ship of fools, so I'm making a structure to resemble makeshift sails. Every day there will be a performance from 6.30-7.30pm of misfits trying to put together a play. Each day there will be a different cast and while there's a script, the production will evolve and people walking past will also affect how it plays out. All the fabrics used in the production will be ones I've found discarded outside arts colleges, just like you may find in a skip.
What are some of the reactions to the Skip Gallery?
We've had everything, from "that's shit" to the bin men who were crying with laughter at David Shrigley's incarnation [which simply had the words 'look at this' within the skip]. There's this widely held belief that art has to be something to ponder with plenty of chin scratching, but we want our works to also be accessible to those who are simply passing by.
Like It Or Lump It: Skip Gallery x Selfridges is at Selfridges, Oxford Street, 4-31 March 2019.
All images in this article courtesy Skip Gallery and copyright the respective artists.