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Frieze Week London 2023

A Guide to the New Cork Street

With Frieze’s No.9 joined by Stephen Friedman and Alison Jacques, and new shows by Shirin Neshat, Sheila Hicks and international indigenous artists, the classic Mayfair address is reinvigorated

BY Anny Shaw in Frieze London , Frieze Week Magazine | 11 OCT 23

With a recent influx of new spaces, Cork Street now vies for the title of most densely populated gallery hub in Europe. Among the newest arrivals – which have all opened to coincide with Frieze London – are Alison Jacques, Stephen Friedman Gallery and Tiwani Contemporary. They join the likes of Flowers Gallery, Goodman Gallery, Holtermann Fine Art, The Mayor Gallery, Waddington Custot and No.9, the permanent location launched by Frieze in October 2021, which rents out spaces to visiting galleries. ‘There’s a local community feel to Cork Street,’ says Selvi May Akyildiz, director of No.9. ‘We’ve had such a good two years that people feel confident about coming to be our neighbours.’

Cork Street has always represented the heart of the London art market for Alison Jacques. After a short stint with Victoria Miro (who had a space there in the 1980s and ’90s), Jacques went to work with Leslie Waddington, kickstarting her career as a gallerist. In 1998, she opened Asprey Jacques with Charles Asprey just around the corner on Clifford Street, which ran for seven years. And, now, having been on Berners Street in Fitzrovia for 16 years, Jacques has returned to Cork Street in search of more space. Her new three-storey gallery, at number 22, has been completely overhauled by the architect Mike Rundell & Associates and includes one room with a five-metre-high ceiling, which Sheila Hicks has filled with an enormous new sculptural commission as part of the inaugural exhibition, ‘Infinite Potential’, a solo show of new work by the American artist. ‘Over the past 16 years, the art world’s centre points have changed,’ says Jacques, ‘and it’s all gravitating again towards Mayfair.’ 

No.9 Cork Street exterior, 2023

When South African Goodman Gallery launched a London outpost in 2019, a historical connection led them to Cork Street as well, as senior director Jo Stella-Sawicka recounts: ‘In 1995, David Bowie curated an exhibition of South African art on Cork Street with Bernard Jacobson and Goodman Gallery in the wake of the country’s first democratic elections.’ Regarding their decision to make the street their long-term London home, Stella-Sawicka expands: ‘We felt strongly due to its legacy and location that it would become a destination again. Our generous exhibition spaces have enabled us to make museum-quality presentations of artists like William Kentridge, Candice Breitz and Alfredo Jaar, and this October we are delighted to stage Shirin Neshat’s second exhibition in the space, with a debut of her new film, The Fury.’

Stephen Friedman, who has expanded his footprint by moving to Cork Street after 27 years on neighbouring Old Burlington Street, says the revival of the West End ‘reaffirms London as a vital part of the art world globally’. He adds: ‘We are excited to collaborate with other galleries on the street and to become part of the artistic and local community there. By expanding our presence in London, we can best support our exceptional artists and their growth.’ The gallery has opened its new London home with ‘Free The Wind, The Spirit, and The Sun’, a group exhibition, curated by British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare, of works by artists from Africa and the African diaspora. While Tiwani Contemporary, another newcomer to the street, has opened with a solo exhibition by fellow British-Nigerian artist, Joy Labinjo.

Exhibitions currently on show at No.9 are international in scope: the Australian gallery Sullivan+Strumpf has a group show curated by Jenn Ellis and Tony Albert, a member of Brisbane-based Indigenous art collective proppaNOW; the New York dealer Charles Moffett is showing new paintings by the Dominican-American artist Kenny Rivero; and Night Gallery from Los Angeles has new work by the Canadian painter Wanda Koop.

Yinka Shonibare CBE, Sun Dance Kids (Boy and Girl), 2023.
Yinka Shonibare CBE, Sun Dance Kids (Boy and Girl), 2023, fibreglass mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, wooden mask, brass, and steel. 133 x 148.5 x 75.5 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London; photograph: Stephen White & Co. Copyright: Yinka Shonibare CBE

The scope of shows on Cork Street represents a seismic shift in taste since the thoroughfare first became an art destination in the early 20th century. Indeed, Mayfair and St James’s have typically exemplified the exclusive, even impenetrable, echelons of the art world – something Akyildiz is keen to overcome. ‘You can walk down our street and see ten shows for free,’ she points out. Some, such as the retrospective of works by postwar modernist William Turnbull, organized at No.9 by Offer Waterman last summer, would rival any museum show. ‘But we’re more than just an art gallery,’ Akyildiz stresses, noting that the hub is home to a trans reading group and Shasha Film Club and that it was behind the Cork Street Carnival in August, a celebration of Afro-Cuban music. ‘We’re here for the return of more collective street parties,’ she adds.

All eyes may be on Cork Street during Frieze Week, but there’s a sense that this historic location is permanently cementing its status once more as a key destination. As Akyildiz puts it: ‘October is naturally a busy time, but we are seeing year-round activity and engagement on Cork Street. It’s a rich vibe.’

This article first appeared in Frieze Week, London 2023 under the headline ‘What a Corker!’.

Cork Street Shows during Frieze Week

- No.9 Cork Street is hosting ‘Kenny Rivero: This, That, and the Third Eye’, Charles Moffett (New York); ‘Wanda Koop: Eclipse’, Night Gallery (Los Angeles) and ‘Story, Place’, Sullivan+Strumpf (Sydney/Melbourne), all from 6 until 21 October

- ‘Sheila Hicks: Infinite Potential’ is on view at Alison Jacques from 6 October  until 18 November

- ‘Shirin Neshat: The Fury’ is on view at Goodman Gallery from 7 October  until 11 November

- ‘Free The Wind, The Spirit, and The Sun’ is on view at Stephen Friedman Gallery from 6 October  until 11 November

- ‘Joy Labinjo: Beloved, Take What You Need’ is on view at Tiwani Contemporary from 12 October  until 11 November

- ‘Ian Davenport: Lake’ is on view at Waddington Custot from 6 October  until 11 November

Main image: Illustration by Albert Tercero

Anny Shaw is a writer and editor. She lives in Brighton, UK.