Dairy Art Centre / A film by Andrew Telling

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Studio Jenny Jones wanted to document the flow of spaces, their relationship to one other, how the “work” is displayed, the choreography of a visit, and how the light and materialisation of the adaptation harmonised and simultaneously announced itself with and against the existing industrial language. They commissioned Andrew Telling having seen the quietness and sensitivity of his work. He filmed during the installation of Yoshitomo Nara’s “Greetings from a place in my heart”.

Together with the stills from Paul Raeside and the viral swirls of social networked imagery there is a vast and wide documentation of this site and the excellent shows and events it hosted.

The site is now being redeveloped and the film now becomes not just a document of that time but of a building that no longer exists.

About the Dairy Art Center

A not-for-profit initiative founded by the art collectors Frank Cohen and Nicolai Frahm took over the former Express Dairies Depot, Bloomsbury, London in 2012 and after a year of planning and adaptation, opened as the Dairy Art Centre in April 2013 with the inaugural solo show by Jon Armleder “Quicksand”.

The Founders envisaged an environment that would respect both the aesthetic of the industrial qualities of the disused depot and allow international-standard exhibitions to be enjoyed in a non-institutional and non-commercial environment.

The site sits in a triangular pocket formed between the city grid and St George’s Gardens; a cultural poche. By nature of it’s attitude and positioning, it was likened to Saatchi’s exhibition space on Boundary Road.

Since the collection of existing buildings and yards already promised a curatorial sequence of differentiated spaces for exhibitions and events, we developed a language for its appropriation that created new interventions only where there was a need, and then through a filter of distillation and realignment we removed and re-used elements of the existing to create a choreographed yet flexible sequence of display “niches” and rooms. There was an efficiency in this, appropriate as a sensitivity to the site’s qualities but also to a budget that was geared to the potential “meanwhileness” of the use of the site; on one hand the adaptation should express temporary, at the same time as creating a background appropriate to the standard of work that would be shown.

The result felt deliberately passive; the “art” is the focus, with the exception of the entrance which worked hard to facilitate the functional requirements of art loading / event flow / gallery window / security / fire exit and…entrance. This was achieved through a choreography of visible doors, sliding windows, pocket walls with invisible doors and the old existing black sliding shutter as the final layer.

The material palette was deliberate: colourless, white, mirror stainless steel, glass and translucent multiwall polycarbonate. This assembly of clear, solid, reflective and translucent surfaces reveal partial views whilst reflected views are flattened within the material surface. The display walls finished sharply and struck a clear datum; display below / old depot above. The horizontal expression of this datum was further implied with a family of fluorescent lighting details developed to camouflage into the ceiling architecture. The exception being the entrance which was illuminated by a seamless back-lit fabric ceiling panel that spanned from the lobby to Room A, guiding the visitor to the first junction and acting as a liminal curating device between exterior and interior.

The industrial sheds were by their nature porous to external conditions. We challenged the level of thermal performance / relative humidity to a standard appropriate for the storage of art which resulted in a low energy installation and operation. The quality of air that one sensed felt authentic to the experience of viewing art in an appropriated industrial space.