As we near the end of another exceptional year at Unit London, our thoughts cast back to the rich visual languages, cultural diversity and authentic individuality that have characterised the gallery’s programming in 2022. After 50 exhibitions throughout the year which have spanned both physical and online presentations, the gallery continues to defy conventions and resist categorisation – leading with an ideas-driven programme that continues to cultivate new perspectives and broader audiences for artists.
We deeply value the integral role that public institutions play in society and are proud to have collaborated with numerous international museums and public art spaces including the Uffizi Galleries, Fundación AMMA, Pinacoteca di Brera, Crocker Art Museum, and Salvatore Ferragamo Museum. This year’s highlights include Jake Wood-Evans at the Vanitas at Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins in France, Stacey Gillian Abe’s inclusion at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg in Germany and a Unit London take-over of the Nassima Landau Foundation in Tel-Aviv.
2022 was very much a year of debuts, as we celebrated inaugural UK solo exhibitions by Belgian painter Kristof Santy and Korean portraitist Heesoo Kim. Described as an “international sensation” by FAD Magazine, Santy’s exhibition delivered a heartfelt, personal exploration of the beauty of banal life, depicted in alluring detail through simple home pleasures and everyday household utensils. In contrast, Kim’s anonymous figures spoke to the universality of human emotion – a deeply powerful show that dramatically balanced humour with tragedy. Both exhibitions revealed the ordinary to be, in fact, extraordinary, and articulated common human truths that bind us all together.
Coinciding with Frieze week, the group exhibition Sensitive Content highlighted the prescient issue of censorship. The liberty of artists and their freedom of visual expression is critical to the enduring role of art, and it is a liberty that is under threat in novel ways, with artworks being censored in today’s digital age by sensitivity filters on social media. Curated by artist Helen Beard and art historians Alayo Akinkugbe and Maria Elena Buszek, the critically acclaimed exhibition gave voice to those who have been systematically marginalised and presented works that have been censored by governments, lobby groups and algorithms spanning the 1940s to the present day. According to Artnet News, “the works shown in ‘Sensitive Content’ offer historical and contemporary vantages of the ways censorship has and can affect creative expression—and the ways artists are pushing back.” The exhibition was accompanied by a thought-provoking panel discussion with writers Gareth Harris (The Art Newspaper) and Farah Nayeri (The New York Times).
Ending the year with a high note and carrying us forward into the new year, Hong Kong artist Stephen Wong presented two series of vibrant landscape paintings: expansive canvases of his hometown of Hong Kong and small vignettes of outstanding UK landmarks. Tatler Asia wrote, “Stephen Wong Chun-hei has become one of Hong Kong’s most in-demand artists by putting his own spin on one of the world’s oldest art forms, landscape painting.” Concurrently, Ugandan artist Stacey Gillian Abe’s striking indigo-hued muses “reframe how viewers see black bodies and femininity [and] her artwork also examines how traditions are absorbed and transformed from generation to generation,” wrote Dom Carter for Art Plugged. Both artists were introduced to the gallery programme in 2021, through solo exhibitions on our online programme Platform, the success of which is demonstrated by both artist’s progression into the gallery’s main exhibition spaces this year.
In line with our fundamental commitment to supporting emerging talent, Platform staged 22 exhibitions this year, including solo presentations by Antony Micallef, Mariah Ferrari and Madeline Peckenpaugh. With charitable contributions at the core of this initiative, we are proud to have raised nearly £50,000 for meaningful non-profit organisations across the globe.
Over the summer, the gallery launched our bold new Web3 programme, which seeks to identify and contextualise the pioneering talents of digital and on-chain art. Using proprietary new technology, collectors are able to discover and collect on-chain digital art directly from our website – an industry first, and a step towards a Web3 future of collecting. This launch resulted in groundbreaking exhibitions such as In Our Code, a group exhibition of generative art in collaboration with Art On Internet. Bringing together 11 artists working at the cutting-edge of creative coding, the exhibition demonstrated the increasing interplay between digital and physical mediums and examined the historical relationship between the artist’s hand and its computational interpretation.
Following the acclaim of In Our Code, we opened our first exhibition in Paris in conjunction with Paris+ par Art Basel. In an exhibition space in the heart of Le Marais, the gallery presented Parisian artist William Mapan’s premier solo exhibition, which explored the materiality of an immaterial element: algorithmic code. Uniting our Web3 and Editions programming, the exhibition was accompanied by unique NFT and print releases. Bridging the gap between the nascent Web3 and the traditional art communities, the show reflected the founding ambition for our work in the digital space – centred on connecting audiences, unlocking new perspectives, and providing opportunities for education at the intersection of art and technology.
Our participation at the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London marked the gallery’s increasing engagement with Art Fairs, with Sthenjwa Luthuli and Option Nyahunzvi’s work telling parallel stories about materiality and process in South and Southeast Africa. This was followed by a group presentation at ART021 in Shanghai, and in 2023, we are excited to present two booths at ART SG in Singapore, showing paintings by Stephen Wong and Seth Armstrong, and meditative computer-based works by acclaimed digital artist Krista Kim. Our next international stops in the new year will be a group show at Art Tokyo and a solo exhibition at EXPO CHICAGO, which will mark Stacey Gillian Abe’s first solo presentation in the United States.
Looking ahead, our forthcoming projects include Mexican-American artist Mauro C. Martinez’s continued exploration of the concept of “the end of the world” – with a critical lens held up to society’s chronic addiction to the online world. Titled RateMySetup, the exhibition spans both floors of our London gallery and will feature painting, sculpture and installation. Pioneering generative artist Tyler Hobbs will mark his first appearance in London with a solo show of new paintings and digital works, followed by an exhibition commemorating his acclaimed QQL series at PACE gallery in New York. Subsequently, a group exhibition curated by Ferren Gipson, author of Women’s Work, will highlight contemporary women artists working in textiles and ceramics, exploring a variety of ideas related to our inner and outer worlds.
Ultimately, 2023 will be a cause for celebration – representing 10 years since the gallery’s inception in September of 2013. This moment offers a special opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the people that have made our journey possible: we owe the success of this past decade, simply, to U. As the gallery grows, we are always grateful for your continued support. The passionate, creative community of artists, collectors, collaborators and art lovers that we are lucky to call our Unit London family give meaning and purpose to everything we do. So as we draw 2022 to a close, we look forward to 2023 with an irrepressible and unwavering commitment to U. See you next year!