in Frieze , Interviews | 28 MAY 24

London Gallery Weekend According to: Jeremy Epstein of Edel Assanti

The co-founder of the annual extravaganza of art spaces across the capital explains its place in the city’s cultural calendar 

in Frieze , Interviews | 28 MAY 24

London Gallery Weekend started in 2021 amid the wreckage of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had seen all the capital’s art spaces closed to visitors, as well as a halt to performances, tours, talks, workshops and lates. Now in its fourth year, LGW sees galleries big and small across the city open their doors in a festival of creative community and shared desire to demonstrate the breadth, diversity and unexpectedness of London's contemporary art world, along with a programme of live events. Co-founder Jeremy Epstein of Fitzrovia’s Edel Assanti explains the motivation behind the initiative.  

Jeremy Epstein of Edel Assanti
Jeremy Epstein. Photo Will Amlot, courtesy Edel Assanti

Why did you launch London Gallery Weekend? 

The pandemic ushered in a new era of collaboration in the gallery community, with a real appetite to draw attention to London’s uniquely diverse and expansive gallery landscape. We believe that that landscape necessitates a second moment of global art world focus, in addition to Frieze Week in October. 

Lesley Asare, Body Arcana (Home Building) at London Gallery Weekend 2023. Photo courtesy London Gallery Weekend
Lesley Asare, Body Arcana (Home Building) at London Gallery Weekend 2023. Photo courtesy London Gallery Weekend

What are your personal highlights of this year’s programme?

I’m excited about this year’s Venice Biennale Golden Lion recipient Nil Yalter’s first performance in London as part of the LGW performance programme. We are also thrilled to see the UK Government Art Collection launch an acquisition partnership this year, acquiring a work from one of the participating galleries for the collection. Each year it is a highlight to welcome the curators from our Art Fund-partnered bursary scheme. They always convey that the opportunity to attend LGW is a significant enabler in terms of seeing exhibitions they otherwise wouldn’t see, the connections made with artists, their peers and the participating galleries through the programming, and the plans they leave with as a result. Our “Art Journeys” partnership with BMW, where collectors are offered a chauffeured experience of galleries, artist studios and private collections is new to this year’s edition.

Every micro-neighbourhood of London has its own rich history.

What makes London’s gallery scene unique and how is it evolving?

Its diversity and dynamism. Every year we see an array of new galleries opening. For instance, in the past 12 months a cluster of fantastic new spaces has sprung up in Bloomsbury. The strength of the city’s art schools directly feeds into this – as ever, many of the younger spaces are set up to provide a platform for a new generation of artists.

Yi To Double Quasar, 2023 Oil on canvas © Yi To, Courtesy the artist and Alice Amati
Yi To, Double Quasar, 2023. Oil on canvas. © Yi To, courtesy the artist and Alice Amati

Are there emerging trends in how people show (and experience) art?

The bar for quality of presentation, installation and documentation has been substantially raised in the past few years. I’m amazed by artists’ general awareness, even at the earliest stages of their careers, of the connotations of specific presentation strategies. The calibre of digital content produced by galleries of all sizes has also evolved significantly in the past few years, and in many cases sets the standard for the rest of our field.

Marcin Dudek, NEOPLAN
Marcin Dudek, NEOPLAN, installation view, Edel Assanti London, 2023. © Marcin Dudek. Courtesy the artist and Edel Assanti. Photo by Marcin Dudek

How would you characterize the three major London cultural scenes covered by LGW: central, east and south?

Part of the joy of LGW is that within each of these three areas, every micro-neighbourhood has its own rich history. I was just listening to Talk Art’s latest podcast with Louisa Buck discussing the long history of Cork Street as a gallery hub. There’s a continual cycle of renewal in each neighbourhood, with new spaces taking up the mantle just as you thought it might be on the wane. That was being said about Fitzrovia a few years ago, until we saw an explosion of new spaces open here in the past few years. It’s too complex to summarize – the best people to ask are the gallerists in each area.

Jacqueline de Jong, Upheaval, 2023. Oil pastel on unstretched canvas 190 x 220 cm. Courtesy the artist and Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London. Photography Mark Blower
Jacqueline de Jong, Upheaval, 2023. Oil pastel on unstretched canvas, 190 × 220 cm. Courtesy the artist and Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London. Photography Mark Blower

How is it organized, given that it’s a collaboration between spaces across London?

LGW is run by a committee with an extraordinary range of expertise from a broad spectrum of London galleries. Our brilliant Managing Director, Emily Lennox, and Head of Programme, Arianna Bertolotti, alongside my Co-Director Sarah Rustin (of Thaddaeus Ropac) are the driving force. The team works to develop LGW according to feedback from galleries and visitors, and a steering committee representative of the diversity of participating galleries, in terms of sizes, locations and generations. 

What makes a good gallery?

Supporting artists to realize the most ambitious version of their work within a programme where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

What is great about your own gallery’s location?

Fitzrovia is central and easy to access. It has a sense of history while being populated by many young businesses, so its identity is in flux, which lends itself to the experience of seeking out its treasure trove of established and newly opened galleries. There’s also an abundance of characterful industrial architecture perfectly suited to memorable gallery spaces. 

Can you give some food / drink recommendations near Edel Assanti for visitors needing a pitstop?

Clipstone, Pahli Hill and Naroon are our regulars for lunch. If you’re on the go: Shoop for the best falafel in town and Al Dente for authentic homemade pasta. My go-to local bar is The Social, which also has a great music programme in its basement. 


Nil Yalter, Turkish Immigrants, 1977, Photos, texts and painting on cardboard and aluminium, dimensions variable
Nil Yalter, Turkish Immigrants, 1977. Photos, texts and painting on cardboard and aluminium, dimensions variable. Courtesy London Gallery Weekend

What’s your favourite unusual gallery or collection in London? 

Sir John Soane’s Museum is my favourite house museum in the world. The Estorick Collection is also great. 

Best thing about London?

London continues to be a city where artists and creators want to live, and we have a unique constellation of art spaces, theatre and – most importantly for me – music! Many of my favourite artists, venues and labels are in London, and you can see amazing gigs every night of the week. London’s legacy of counter-culture is alive and well today.

Worst thing about London?

Fomo – there’s always too much to do and see!

Edel Assanti takes part in London Gallery Weekend, Friday 31 May–Sunday 2 June. 

Find more details of London Gallery Weekend.

Follow and @friezeofficial on Instagram for more on London Gallery Weekend, including frieze magazine’s Critics’ Guide and highlights tours from the central, south and east London programmes.

Main image: Sid Motion Gallery at London Gallery Weekend 2023