BY Chris Waywell in Frieze London | 03 OCT 23

We Go Way Back: Maureen Paley

In an ongoing series of interviews with galleries that have been at Frieze London since day one in 2003, East End pioneer Maureen Paley explains her guiding principle of ‘dedication, loyalty and longevity’

BY Chris Waywell in Frieze London | 03 OCT 23

US-born Maureen Paley was one of the first gallerists to run a space in London’s East End. Always committed to contemporary art, she showed important early work by Turner Prize winners Wolfgang Tillmans and Gillian Wearing, along with other YBA artists. Still based in Bethnal Green, Maureen Paley gallery today represents, among others, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, AA Bronson, Liam Gillick, Behrang Karimi, Alastair Mackinven, Rebecca Warren and Jane and Louise Wilson, and has opened further spaces Studio M in Shoreditch and Morena di Luna in Hove, East Sussex. Paley herself explains her journey.   

Could you outline the history of Maureen Paley gallery in London?

I began the gallery as an indie project space in 1984 called Interim Art and worked with artists on a project basis for about ten years until 1993/94. This was a moment of great experimentation and allowed me to import artists to the UK often for the first time. During this phase I showed Charles Ray, Mike Kelley, Fischli Weiss, Christian Marclay before they were more widely known. By 1993 I gave a solo show to Wolfgang Tillmans and the year after to Gillian Wearing. The gallery then progressed towards representing both of them and added Rebecca Warren to our roster in 2001. The gallery name was changed to Maureen Paley in 2004 in celebration of the gallery’s 20th anniversary and many more artists were added to the programme including Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Hannah Starkey, Kaye Donachie, Anne Hardy, AA Bronson and General Idea. 

Behrang Karimi Dinge Weltweit exhibition view, Maureen Paley, London, 2023 © Behrang Karimi, courtesy Maureen Paley, London Photo: Mark Blower
Behrang Karimi, Dinge Weltweit, exhibition view, Maureen Paley, London, 2023. © Behrang Karimi, courtesy Maureen Paley, London. Photo: Mark Blower

What do you feel is the most important aspect of your approach to the artists you show?

Dedication, loyalty and longevity with a consistent emphasis on excellence and experimentation.

Who have been some of the formative artists and shows for you?

They are too numerous to mention but Wolfgang Tillmans, Gillian Wearing, Rebecca Warren, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Paul P., Kaye Donachie, Felipe Baeza, Behrang Karimi and Chioma Ebinama have all shown definitive and iconic works with the gallery to name only a few. Wolfgang Tillmans’s Truth Study Center was the first time his table works were shown in public in 2005 and the Dancing in Peckham video work by Gillian Wearing was first shown at the gallery in her debut exhibition in 1994.

What impact has Frieze London had on you and on London’s art scene in a wider sense

Frieze forms a focus in our autumn schedule and emphasizes the international interest in the London art scene combined with building momentum on a more local/national level.

Maureen Paley’s stand at Frieze Los Angeles, 2023. Courtesy Maureen Paley, London
Maureen Paley’s stand at Frieze Los Angeles, 2023. Courtesy Maureen Paley, London

Which moments from Frieze especially stand out for you or were significant for you?

I always find the location in The Regent’s Park breathtaking and love the park walk between the main fair and Frieze Masters which is beautiful. We were delighted to have General Idea’s AIDS (Wallpaper Installation) 1988 acquired by the Tate through the Outset Frieze Tate Fund in 2014, and Earshot, 2016 by Lawrence Abu Hamdan acquired through the Frieze Tate Fund in 2017.

What young or emerging artists are you finding exciting right now? 

Felipe Baeza, Chioma Ebinama, Rory Pilgrim, Behrang Karimi.

What does the future hold for Maureen Paley (the gallery!)? 

I am delighted to have a constellation of spaces to offer to our artists that includes Studio M in Shoreditch, Morena di Luna in Hove and the main gallery which provide diverse platforms for their work. We are looking into our crystal ball and will know more soon…

Wolfgang Tillmans Moon in Earthlight exhibition view, Morena di Luna, Hove, 2021 © Wolfgang Tillmans, courtesy Maureen Paley, London. Photo: Mark Blower
Wolfgang Tillmans, Moon in Earthlight, exhibition view, Morena di Luna, Hove, 2021. © Wolfgang Tillmans, courtesy Maureen Paley, London. Photo: Mark Blower

Maureen Paley, 60 Three Colts Lane, London, E2 6GQ

Studio M, Rochelle School, Friars Mount House, 7 Playground Gardens, London, E2 7FA 

Morena di Luna, 3 Adelaide Crescent, Hove, BN3 2JD


Maureen Paley gallery is part of Frieze London, which returns to The Regent’s Park from 11–15 October, 2023. Read the full list of galleries and curators taking part in Frieze London and Frieze Masters 2023.


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Main image: Interior, Maureen Paley gallery, 3 Colts Lane, London. Photo © Maureen Paley

Chris Waywell is Senior Editor of Frieze Studios. He lives in London, UK.