By Angela Lovely

Reflection of buildings on glass.
Exchanges around Construction: a series of three exhibitions at Derwent London's Gallery, 43 Whitfield Street.

One of Derwent London’s buildings in Fitzrovia is to open its doors to show three art exhibitions this year.

From today (16 March) the former office and showroom on the corner of Whitfield and Tottenham streets is to become a venue adding to the 40-plus art galleries that are already splashed throughout Fitzrovia. Gallery floorspace in Fitzrovia is only exceeded by the real estate that Derwent London own in the neighbourhood.

Derwent recently announced that in 2011 they had received planning permission for redevelopment of a number of their properties. These planning consents yielded an uplift over existing floorspace of 68 percent on these sites. This included the controversial decision by the mayor Boris Johnson last year to approve the redevelopment of the Saatchi building in Charlotte Street. Now Derwent’s regeneration team have got that hurdle out of the way they feel it’s time to relax and enjoy a little culture.

With Exchanges around Construction, Derwent have invited curator Andrew Bick to create three exhibitions exploring the relationship between architecture and art and what became known as British constructivism. Bick is a practising artist, researcher and has curated many exhibitions.

The displays at Whitfield Street are intended to reflect the three exhibitions of British construction artists organised by the artist Adrian Heath in 1952 and 1953 at his studio at 22 Fitzroy Street. The original studio building is gone but the site is now owned by Derwent London.

Heath cared not only for art and his students, but also about the built environment and affordable housing. If he were alive today he would have questioned why there are so many art galleries in Fitzrovia yet so few artists living here.

Adrian Heath and his wife Corinne were passionate about the people and buildings around them and wanted to put their enthusiasm into practice. In 1970 they became very concerned by the demolition of buildings and homes in Fitzrovia. They got organised to oppose the destruction and held meetings with neighbours at their home at 28 Charlotte Street. These meetings led to the formation of the Charlotte Street Association who have continued to this day campaigning to keep Fitzrovia as an affordable place to live as well as being instrumental in establishing the Charlotte Street conservation area.

It was the Charlotte Street Association who led the opposition to Derwent London’s redevelopment of the Saatchi block last year. That Derwent London are celebrating Adrian Heath has more than a touch of irony. And it has understandably angered at least one friend of the Heaths.

Derwent have no plans for a permanent gallery at Whitfield Street. But they would do well to establish a gallery here and it would be welcomed by local residents and businesses. Better still they could establish affordable studios where artists could create. Fitzrovia has grown fat on the consumption of art; it’s time it gave space for its production and nurture.

Exchanges around Construction

  1. The Slade School and Construction — 16 March to 5 May 2012.
  2. Construction and Architecture: Parallels — 14 June to 18 August 2012.
  3. Designing an echo — 27 September to 24 November 2012.

All exhibitions open Thursdays to Saturday from 2pm to 5.30pm,
Derwent London Gallery, 43 Whitfield Street, London W1T 4HD

Adrian Heath is the subject of a book by Jane Rye to be published in 2012.