Hackney Wick has seen a genuine artistic renaissance in the last few years, what with the likes of the Schwartz and Elevator Galleries, The Yard for theatre and music, and festivals such as Hackney Wicked.
Now this transformation has been bolstered by the arrival of a new gallery, Arbeit (German for ‘work’), based on White Post Lane. The project is the brainchild of Israeli-born Nimrod Vardi and Hungarian native Hojni Semsei, who met in 2010.
“We used to have a space in Bethnal Green, just under the arches. It was an old arch with a beautiful atmosphere and a lot of water leaking,” recalls Semsei.
On moving to Old Street in September 2011, they hosted a number of exhibitions, screenings, talks and ‘fashion swap’ events, as well as renting out space to artists.
But after a more lucrative gallery muscled in on the site, Arbeit closed in late 2012, with the current space in Hackney Wick unveiled recently.
Semsei is enthusiastic about their new location: “We moved in January 2013, and already feel at home now. We get support from different businesses and organisations around us, and it’s not a closed community at all.”
This is despite fear that the Olympics last summer may have affected or ‘diluted’ the area’s artistic spirit, with property prices and rents rising due to the area’s proximity and high expectations by landlords. Semsei remains upbeat, however: “Hackney Wick is still a mixture of artists/creative types and non-artists, residential and industrial areas.”
The duo has been working on a number of forthcoming events, such as ‘The Pop-Up’, which will focus on the use of empty spaces in London.
This will include talks on 11 April from leading organisations focusing on the protection and use of such spaces, including Pop Up London and local authority guest speakers. On the following Saturday, there will be a ‘pop-up hairdresser salon’ and dance performance by ‘Gypsy Korea’ artist Sukjin Kim.
In the meantime, the gallery aims to give something back to the artistic community by carrying on renting out space to local artists.
“We’re not funded,” says Semsei, “so renting out our studios is a major part of our income. It is nice to be surrounded by young creatives. Most of them are similar to us, with a start-up company, young and energetic.”
Indeed, Arbeit has shown that the artistic spirit can still thrive in this corner of Hackney despite the ever-increasing cost of living.
Unit 4 White Post Lane
Queens Yard, E9 5EN