Camden Art Centre, founded in a former library building in 1965, has been in the news recently for an unwelcome reason: its annual Government funding has been cut by more than a third, from £937,000 to £600,000. That defies reason, given that the higher reaches of Finchley Road are well clear of central London – from which the Arts Council has been ordered to make reductions; the gallery’s community programmes are widely praised; and, looking across the century to date, Camden has had the most consistent programme quality of any public gallery in the capital. Consider for example 2001 (which included solo shows by Roman Signer, Doris Salcedo and Mary Heilmann), 2010 (Simon Starling, René Daniëls, Anna Maria Maiolino) or last year (Lily van der Stokker, Allison Katz, Forrest Bess). Plus Camden has a highly regarded ceramics residency, five alumni from which feature in the Hayward Gallery’s ‘Strange Clay’. I guess the obvious explanation for the cut is that ministers have never been there, and assume from the title that it’s best categorised as being in affluent no-help-needed Camden – perhaps directors Jenni Lomax (1990-2017) and Martin Clark (from 2017) missed a trick in not renaming it Frognal Art Centre. There’s still time to catch Forrest Bess (to 15 Jan): 50 paintings against black walls, most in Bess’s own driftwood frames, and complemented by fascinating archival material.
London’s gallery scene is varied, from small artist-run spaces to major institutions and everything in between. Each week, art writer and curator Paul Carey-Kent gives a personal view of a space worth visiting.