White Cube probably isn’t at the top of most family’s go-to list of galleries. Tucked away in a courtyard on trendy Bermondsey Street, this Aladdin’s Cave of an exhibition space has made its name presenting innovative contemporary art, recently showcasing work by British artists such as Gilbert and George and Tracie Emin, as well as major retrospectives by other world-class international artists.
Having not seen much by Anthony Gormley since his work on the forth plinth in Trafalgar Square in 2009, I didn’t want to miss the chance to catch this incredible sculptor at such a humbling and intimate space. Taking the form of a labyrinth, Fit definitely sounded like something we’d be able to enjoy together, and to be honest if it didn’t go well, we weren’t far from Borough Market, More London or even Tate Modern if we needed something more playful.
White Cube is such a striking space, my young companion was captivated as soon as we walked inside. Surprisingly lacking in crazy weekend crowds, we breezed in and grabbed some gallery notes from the super-friendly Front of House team, who (in return) grabbed our buggy and tucked it away somewhere safe.
En route to Gormley’s work, we passed an intriguing sculpture by neighbouring artist Virginia Overton, one of her signature pick-up trucks, symbolic of the American working classes and the prevalence of car culture. My young companion quite rightly commented that it looked like it had been ‘turned inside out’. In fact, it must have twisted her brain ever-so-slightly trying to piece it all back together, as I found it almost impossible to prize her away. Good sign. White Cube had already won her over.
We reached the South Galleries and began to navigate through the work. The space had been cleverly configured in order for you to carve your own path, yet every room contained its own maze-like sculpture, each designed to make you consider your relationship not just with the built environment, but with the city or country that you live in, challenging what it means to ‘fit in’ or be excluded.
Yes, there were definitely some tricky sculptures; some that she was keen to sit on and others that she wanted to crawl under, however, the majority of work is of such scale that there was always something new to distract her, as well as plenty more suitable work to meander amongst. At her height, she soon found that the work actually took on an even stronger sense of purpose, crouching down low to peer through spaces and teetering on tiptoes for towering structures. Although I had to work extra hard to keep her from wandering straight through the Sleeping Field (2016), I am sure that she wasn’t the only visitor to feel its incredible draw.
The crowning glory of the exhibition is Passage (2016), a 12 meter long tunnel in the shape of a human silhouette, offering a journey into darkness and the unknown. We queued for (surprisingly) not more than about 10 minutes. With neither of us being firm fans of dark small spaces, this gave us ample time to prepare, discussing our strategy of escape in the event we didn’t enjoy it. With the support of the visitor team and our queueing compadres, we braved it together, walking in hand-in-hand. We did only get to the halfway point before turning back, but certainly far enough to experience the incredible acoustics, and not too far to freak out, or disappear forever.
We left to encouraging smiles, which meant instead of feeling like we had copped out, we were proud of our own memorable interaction and our own unique challenge through exploring Gormley’s work together.
If you’re clever enough to find the exit, before you head for the door, definitely stop off in the North Galleries for a peek at the rest of Virginia Overton’s show. As well as her large-scale mirrored installation room created from a host of reclaimed materials, her cosy (and real-working) wood-burning stove fills the space with warmth and provides a timely point to sit down and take stock. With my little boo in tow, we sat for all of five minutes before it awakened our urge to head off in search of hot chocolate. Now primed to navigate our way through the Saturday-brunching hipsters, that’s exactly what we did.
Fit is at White Cube until 6th November 2016
144-153 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3TQ
Tuesday to Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 12-6pm