The role of education is now an important part of art discourse in the UK, largely due to institutional changes resulting from new funding requirements. Portman Gallery is a project that bridges the world of education and that of contemporary art, but does it the other way around: instead of inviting classes into the gallery, here the gallery exists within the school site.
The central belief informing the setting up of the gallery is that contemporary visual art is not simply something which needs to be explained to the uninitiated; in fact it can play a much more fundamental educational role. Good art is able to disrupt habits of thought, and initiate a questioning approach to important issues. As an activity art is a method which involves approaching the world in an intelligent and critical way. This is a more productive, and less passive notion of art education. The exhibitions will therefore be a means of stimulating independent thinking and will provide skills in tackling open-ended questions.
An essential aspect of the gallery is that it puts on top quality, highly innovative shows of contemporary art, and is open to the public. The gallery is located in the heart of London's East End gallery district, and identifies as part of that art circuit, whilst also playing a role in actively encouraging members of the local community to visit. We aim to create an exhibition environment that is open, friendly, and opposed to the often exclusionary protocols of commercial spaces.
Work will be shown within a specially designed modular system of walls and flooring that can be arranged according to the requirements of each exhibition. This innovative and visually striking structure resembles an island of sorts, and provides the work with a degree of autonomy, whilst remaining accessible.