Angela Flowers (1932-2023) founded her eponymous gallery in 1970, initially concentrating on living British artists in Central London before expanding the roster and pioneering the late 90’s trend of galleries moving east by opening what was at the time the largest commercial space in London on Richmond Road, Hackney in 1988. Soon afterwards, her son Matthew took over as managing director. He oversaw the Cork Street space opening in 2000 and moved East End operations to Kingsland Road from 2002 until the recent consolidation into just the central space (along with Hong Kong). That fits with the ongoing revival of London’s most famous art thoroughfare and the wider move away from Shoreditch as an art destination.
Flowers has a notably busy approach – you will hardly ever find it closed for installation – and must be approaching its 1,000th show – among which one can number five decades of its popular annual ‘Small is Beautiful’. The programme is notably strong in photography and related work – take Edward Burtynsky, Julie Cockburn, Elger Esser, Scarlett Hooft Graafland, Nadav Kander, Mona Kuhn, Tom Lovelace, Robert Polidori and Esther Teichmann. Long-term loyalty is another Flowers characteristic. It’s the least ageist of London’s galleries, and the veteran painters David Hepher and Bernard Cohen are favourites of mine: after decades with the gallery, they’re working with undiminished vigour and invention at 88 and 90 respectively. The current exhibition is by the latter who – never mind Damien Hirst – is our premier painter of spots, which he gives a sculptural presence as one element of his complex works. I’ll even forgive Cohen’s writer-unfriendly view that ‘explanation is a horror’.
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.