“When we started, we found out David Shrigley’s address and put a letter through his door saying we had a gallery in a skip and asked him would he show his work. He said yes immediately,” say Baker & Borowski, the founders of SKIP Gallery. Created as a way to offer opportunities for “artistic interventions in unexpected places”, London-based SKIP Gallery is the moveable art space which houses artworks and installations in modified skips.
What started with a letter three years ago, has now allowed artistic duo Baker & Borowski to carve out an unconventional niche in the art world that ultimately aims to encourage “people that wouldn’t necessarily step into a gallery or museum” to interact with art at street level.
Launching today (5 September) is their biggest project to date. Look At This is a thought-provoking show exhibiting work from seven contemporary artists including Gavin Turk, Richard Woods, Paul Kindersley, Maja Djordjevic, and of course, David Shrigley – as well as brand new installations by Sarah Maple and Baker & Borowski themselves.
“We’ve got seven skips in the show, it’s a bit of a dream come true to have them all under one roof, it’s a real opportunity to go big!” Baker & Borowski explain. “We’ve chosen uncompromising artists, who tackle wide-ranging subjects from identity, body politics, gender, authenticity, cultural history, death, to make-up and ridiculousness. This all-star billing brings together emerging artists to show alongside British big hitters.”
All the work on display in the show has a “common thread of fuck it” and this approach aligns perfectly with SKIP’s punk-like spirit. As for the new work on display, Sarah Maple’s installation is the first text piece to show at SKIP and it’s the most overtly political, responding directly to the times we’re living in. As for Baker & Borowski’s work, it’s an homage to Baker’s father who recently passed away, “a story of love and passing, and being passed off”. Made using 34 spindles, the artwork also incorporates a piece of cheese, a can of Coke and a Mars Bar, all items which had been added to Baker’s dad’s grave.
Typically taking to the streets to hold its exhibitions, this time SKIP is taking up a temporary residence at Finsbury Park’s Arts Building in north London, a new creative hub with photographic studios, project space and offices for people working in the creative industries. The building was previously home to iconic art framers, John Jones, who had been there for 40 years.
“We initially conceived the show as a series of skips installed in parking spaces close to the building but their newly renovated ground floor space was offered to us and we jumped at the chance to take over the blank canvas,” explain the duo. “It also seemed like a funny idea to create a gallery environment for a bunch of skips, and it felt like a great continuation for the SKIP story – from street corner to Selfridges to a gallery made just for us.”
For Borowski, having grown up in Finsbury Park, just a few streets away from the Arts Building, it felt like a homecoming for her. “It’s an interesting area, it was overlooked for so long and now it’s like London has finally cottoned on to what a brilliant location Finsbury Park is,” say Baker & Borowski.
Their temporary home has relieved the pair of council restrictions, permits, security and of course the British classic, unpredictable weather. But of course, moving into a physical space hasn’t been without its own difficulties. “Until now, we’ve shown one skip at a time and have not had to think about the audience journey and the relationship between the artworks,” say the duo. “The conversation between each piece within the space has proved to be a challenge. Also, we’ve debated lighting. We normally rely on the sun and street lighting to light our skips, we’ve had so many in-depth conversations about power, house lighting and spotlights versus floodlight-style lights.”
Despite the safety of four walls, Baker & Borowski are keen to maintain the spirit of SKIP in Look At This. “We hope that we have created a certain sense of magical realism by presenting seven bog-standard skips as artworks in such an unusual space. Let’s face it, there is a profound irony in the creation of artistic works housed in a skip,” say Baker & Borowski. “This space will hopefully act as a disruptive environment to inspire discourse, presenting an alternative to the conventional routes to art, for both artists and viewers.”
With their exhibitions growing and their ideas getting even more ambitious, what have the last three years of SKIP Gallery taught Baker & Borowski? “That art is thought made real. We’re making art out of a bin, so anything is possible!” say the pair. “And don’t wait for galleries to invite you to do a show, just get on and organise it. We had no idea where this would all end up, but the journey has been art in itself.”
Arts Building X SKIP Gallery’s Look At This exhibition is on from 5 – 15 September 2019 in Finsbury Park, London; skipgallery.com