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Hannah Barry Contemporary Art Gallery

Deep in the streets of South East London there is a cultural phenomenon occurring (Thumbnail credit VIKTORTIMOFEEV.LOCAL_AREA_NET-WORK[s]. January 2010 Hannah Barry Gallery, London)

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Deep in the streets of South East London there is a cultural phenomenon occurring, with the Hannah Barry Gallery being widely publicised in the press as the epicentre of the change. Usually synonymous with gang violence and a helping of knife crime, Peckham is fast becoming recognised as the new arts hub of London, overtaking the now trendy Hoxton Hackney east end. Barry, however is unconcerned with the location of her gallery, commenting "I'm very grateful that it's possible to have a gallery however and wherever it's happening".

Hannah Barry and Sven Munder have achieved an impressive amount since starting out three years ago in a crumbling squat in Lyndhurst Way, Peckham. Working with 10 unknown young artists in 2006, they have gone from a squat to the Venice Biennale with the Peckham Pavilion in just three years.

Hannah and Sven, both Cambridge History of Art graduates are now considered two of the most important figures in British contemporary art. The shows range from an annual sculpture show, Bold Tendencies, regular double shows with two juxtaposing artists, and shows focusing on one artist's current work. Hannah commented, the Peckham Pavilion "doesn't stand for Peckham, or anything that comes from it. In a funny way, you could assimilate Peckham with progress."

I meet the pair in their warehouse gallery located in an industrial estate next to a gospel church and a garage after numerous coffees in a nearby greasy spoon cafe. Sven talks me through the current exhibition of Viktor Timofeev, a 26 year old Latvian American. As an avid skateboarder, Viktor's intricate spatial drawings and paintings are very much an amalgamation of this interest, "I explore forms found from the street on paper, going the lineage of fantastical, hypothetical and quasi-utopian architectural structure. With time, street objects were expanded to include all aspects of design that a normal inhabitant of a metropolis is confronted with on a daily basis, recycled and juggled in a non-scenically, humorous way."

On her page at the Peckham Pavilion site, Hannah quotes Gertrude Stein, "Young artists do not need criticism, what they need is praise. They know well enough what is wrong with their work, what they don't know is what is right with it." Hannah sees this as an important quote for the ethos of the gallery, "In a funny way it's a motto of some sort. It's precisely what you should do, but of course, you have to be critical absolutely, if you don't have the courage to be critical, how are you going to make progress?"

When asked about maintaining a relationship with the young artists, Hannah comments: "That comes from looking after people and them feeling loved and cared for. It's a very difficult relationship to be involved with, which of course is immensely rewarding if the bi-product of that relationship is great art." The Peckham Pavilion at the Biennale is very important to the pair's burgeoning success and media coverage, and they both recognise it as seminal to propelling what they are doing into the international field. "It was an interesting project. However, we are going to try to change the nature of the project completely. To be able to set up an infrastructure to facilitate and promote the idea of progress in new art is far more important or has an equal importance to representing art in a commercial gallery."

Art is a witness to its time, a companion to its time, and that is why what Hannah and Sven are doing is so important. "It reflects something about the world that we all share, in a way perhaps we wouldn't have thought to find it expressed. Artists are not politicians and politicians are not artists, they all have different responsibilities, we all have different responsibilities, and artists are like any other human person who suffers, who is full of pain and who is anxious. You and I express ourselves in a particular way, we go about our work with a certain sense of responsibility as does an artist, maybe it's just not so conscious but these things are here because they are expressions of something. That's why scene contemporary art and being involved with it is important, the nature of it means it can't do it on its own. No message can go out on its own, unless it's a message in a bottle, and a message in a bottle never arrives."

With their focus on progress, and their innate ability to facilitate the growth of the young talent, Barry and Munder are sure to become fixed names on the Brit art scene. They are not simply putting Peckham on the map, but also, and far more importantly, giving some exceptional young artists the opportunity to flourish.iktor Timofeev is showing at the Hannah Barry Gallery, Jan 15th - Feb 11th 2010.

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Jo Posted on Thursday 28 Jan 2010

"Usually synonymous with gang violence and a helping of knife crime, Peckham is fast becoming recognised as the new arts hub of London"

Yes, Peckham has a noticeable handful of skinny middle-class fops thinking they are making the area uber cool and when one of them actually gets murdered by a gang member, they'll finally realise that their presence makes no difference on the level of violence that plagues the area. As the blood drains out of their shocked body, they will sigh with the last gasp of their breath "but I made your 'hood trendy, bruv".


Anonymous Posted on Thursday 28 Jan 2010

Every year there is a trendy and cool part of London that takes the spotlight for arts; Camden, Islington, Notting Hill (to name a few) are examples of this.

I don't think Lowenna is trying to suggest that this has an impact on Peckham, I just think it's an apt description of the area. I live down the road from's not that bad!


Peckham KILLAZ Posted on Tuesday 2 Feb 2010


"Yes, Peckham has a noticeable handful of skinny middle-class fops thinking they are making the area uber cool and when one of them actually gets murdered by a gang member, they'll finally realise that their presence makes no difference on the level of violence that plagues the area. As the blood drains out of their shocked body, they will sigh with the last gasp of their breath "but I made your 'hood trendy, bruv"."


This article is a fair representation of the growing arts community in South London.

Living in Peckham(which you don't Jo),crime does not happen more regularly or more violently than it does in your area. Please don't ever say the word 'Bruv' again, unfortunately you have shown your ignorance, by stereotyping a whole area.

nice one.


Jo Posted on Tuesday 16 Feb 2010

Peckham is one of the most violent areas in the borough of Southwark which itself is one of the most violent boroughs in London, London having one of the highest rates of crime in the UK anyhow. Peckham has one of the highest crime rates in the UK for violence and robbery.

In the recent past, there were 3 murders in its environs in 4 days, children have been murdered by other children, a teenager was shot in the head while he slept, a woman was shot while cradling a baby that was being christened. You couldn't make it up.

The following people have been murdered in Peckham in the last few years alone - all few tiny square miles of it.

RIP - Ainsley Barrington, Leroy McKain, Brendan Hamilton, Chamberlain Igwemba, Damian Cope, Damilola Taylor, Dee Willis, Jason Major, Michael Dosunmu, Javarie Crighton, Lyle Tulloch, Marcus Hall, Michael Mckenzie, Perry Nelson Jr, Reuben Thomas, Shola Agora, Zainab Kalako.

Lets also remember some residents of Peckham murdered outside the boundaries of this small place - Andrew Wanagho, Jimo Plunkett, Melvin Bryan, Nathan Douglas, Philip Poru.

I could list at least 20 people convicted of murders in the recent past from this esteemed place, too.

With at least 22 dead bodies in recent years alone and a similar number of convicted murderers, it is still functioning very satisfactorily as a place synonymous with gang violence and knife crime, and hence is hardly a stereotype.

A few trendy galleries and skinny white boys wearing oversized specs thinking they are cool for living in a gritty place makes little impact on this.


Anonymous Posted on Thursday 25 Feb 2010

Oh Jo, you just read loads of info to back up your point. Just because the statistics say so, doesn't mean as soon as you leave your house you are at risk. Just because you have come from a small town, attended a private school and have always relied on Daddy does not mean you know best. If you actually lived in or around the area, like we do, then you would fully realise that it's not that bad. It's all about adapting sweetheart, get used to it...


Jo Posted on Monday 8 Mar 2010

Actually, darling, you are make my sides split by making up nonsense about my social background, in the same way you believe its a lovely fluffy area despite dozens of recent murders that you were apparently also unaware of. This shows the paucity of your defence and the level of your ignorance.

I live within the shadow of the multi-storey carpark there which hosted a lovely Campari bar to accompany some art exhibition leaving the chattering classes chinking their glasses and admiring the view as the ghosts of the slaughtered wandered beneath them. It was one of the first times I'd seen so many affluent white people in the alleyway there and obviously they've never been back since (apart from, perhaps, to cycle through to Dulwich or Camberwell on their fixies).

In fact, the imagery of the last paragraph would make a nice painting - a generic trendy type sips Campari as as a poor dying soul clutches the blood seeping out of their body on the pavement below.

...particularly if the pretentious one savouring cocktails is a portrait of you as you say 'cheers, can't understand why people think Peckham is unsafe now it has a thriving arts scene since chaps like us were priced out of Hoxton'.



Lowenna Posted on Friday 12 Mar 2010


I think you have missed the point of the article completely. It was not attempting to suggest that the art galleries and collectives springing up all around South East London are doing anything to effect the socio economic stance of the area. It is simply an observation of a true phenomenon.

I am sure you have noticed that Hannah Barry herself commented that it is unimportant where this is occurring, she feels lucky to be able to have a gallery anywhere. The issue being delt with in this article is not the violence that afflicts the gang culture of the area (however this is no doubt a very important issues that should be discussed in the News section of the paper, not the arts), but the exceptional art that is being created. I do not see why you have reacted in such an aggressive manner. Camberwell College and Goldsmiths have existed in this area for over 100 years, and so of course it is no surprise that there will be an influx of art students living in the area. That is where they study! I too lived in the area last year and I can say that it is a safe place to live as long as you are careful.


Jo Posted on Sunday 21 Mar 2010

Lowenna, thanks, your observations are sensible and I accept most of them compared to those who preceded you who were seemingly unaware of the genuine basis for its dismal reputation as an urban crime infested ghetto, and it's good to revisit the original article.

I remind you that a lot of my points were made in response to earlier comments that disputed the actual serious crime and violence in the area - the area (geographically tiny) is usually strewn with a dozen murder victims on an annual basis. This isn't fiction, its cold hard fact.

The article itself mentions that area where I live as being "synonymous with gang violence and a helping of knife crime" and I am reminding those who think its been magically gentrified by the presence of galleries that the link isn't mythical but because of the gangs and violent crime that infest it! In fact, my recollection is that gun crime murder victims are similar or greater in number than knife related murders but the article is a bit amnesiac about the easy supply of automatic weapons here.

Peckham has a terrible underbelly and while its reputation may be growing in the Arts, its making little dent elsewhere, that's my main point to counteract the facile view that the arts is leading to some kind of great renaissance here.

I keep reading extraordinary claims for its regeneration which, as a resident, remains completely undetectable to me (apart from the frequency of newspaper articles glorifying it for a few high profile arts events/venues, that is..)


milddavids Posted on Friday 26 Mar 2010

This is the most intelligent article i have seen about the Hannah Barry Gallery and that includes stuff in most of the broadsheets which usually resort to trite cliches.
Jo whilst I am aware that there is ongoing violence in the area having something positive in Peckham does it no harm. Its much harder for govt and those dishing out grants and help to ignore and dismiss a borough when its getting the spotlight put on it.
All the middle class students that live in the area have to spend money which feeds into the local economy. Some of those students stay and make Peckham home.


Peckham Artist Posted on Friday 13 Aug 2010

Having lived in Peckham, Since studying and after studying remaining here i have to agree that this is one of the better articles about whats happening here. Killaz your right, isnt it annoying when we get people rant out statistics about how bad Peckham is..
Ive had no trouble here other than being asked for cigarettes or spare change, but doesnt this happen everywhere? Chaps like you were priced out of Hoxton?? maybe you should of moved to Hackney then rather than crossing the river. Why would you want to live in Peckham (there are cheaper places elsewhere) if its so bad and full of murders. which sorry to say some of these cases are 10 years old that isnt the recent few years as you say. Peckham has changed massively since the Damilola case, the estate is barely recognizable to what it was then. Peckham is like any South London community. We are deprived of government input. This is changing, you see it on your daily outings that the sight of gentrification is taking hold. Soon enough the Artists will be priced out of here. Please note though, the car park is frequented by East Dulwich and the likes.. That is not a true representation of the peckham art scene.. Maybe you should put down your campari, old chap and go to a few private views rather than using your sweeping generalisms that just go to show how long you have lived in the area.. My guess is your a struggling artist that hasnt been seen, pissed off at the world so envy takes over your voice.. try making work thats worthwile not that shit thats churned out in East London..
Nice article Llowenna, your right to have stated what Peckham is more commonly known for, Some people just like the idea of living in a warzone, which Peckham isnt, so they blow it out of context, Dont worry Jo your far enough from the North Peckham estate to not come across any trouble... Ive left that car park at 4am too many times, alone, and seen nothing but my own shadow.