East End art gallery special

Down narrow lanes and through anonymous doorways, the capital's most vibrant art scene can be tricky to navigate for first-timers. To kick off our celebration of art in the East End, Time Out takes you on a tour around the pick of the area's most exciting galleries

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    Victoria Miro

    The East End scene is justifiably world famous, but, unlike art quarters in other cities, the galleries aren’t neatly contained within a few streets, which means you’ll cover a lot of ground on foot and by bus, but you’ll also sample a huge variety of venues, from artist-run project spaces to ritzy showrooms. And, since they’re all free to visit, you’ll be able to take at least a couple of well-earned pit stops along the way. Set aside a Friday or a Saturday when all the galleries are open, starting at around 10am and finishing between 5pm and 6pm. Though the tour is good fun at any time of year, you’ll find the richest pickings during spring and autumn – and especially in October over the weekend of the Frieze and Zoo art fairs, when the international art world descends and the galleries try that bit harder to impress. Your guide to galleries in the East End starts here.

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    Parasol Unit

    Beginning at Old Street station, take exit two, then, hitting daylight, follow the ramp to your left which leads into City Road. Keep going, crossing East Road and Provost Street. In five or so minutes you come to a petrol station and a branch of McDonald’s. No, this isn’t a wind-up, just the best way of getting to two of the most exciting spaces the capital has to offer. Look up as you turn right just past the Golden Arches into Wharf Road and you’ll catch a glimpse of your first destination – Victoria Miro at 16 Wharf Road, N1 (020 7336 8109/www.victoria-miro.com), with its slab of curving, minimalist icing on top. This recent addition to the building isn’t publicly accessible but that still leaves two floors of elegant warehouse conversion in which to see work by Miro’s international stable, including Peter Doig, Chris Ofili, Tal R and Grayson Perry; just press the buzzer and wait for the metal door to click open. Next stop and a short trip to neighbouring Parasol Unit at 14 Wharf Road, N1 (020 7490 7373/www.parasol-unit.org). Again, you’ll have to press a buzzer and this time you’ll even be greeted by a human voice (getting the hang of gallery-door etiquette is all part of the experience). Run by Ziba de Weck, Parasol is a swanky, not-for-profit space that, in addition to an artist-in-residence scheme, holds three or four first-rate exhibitions a year.

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    White Cube Hoxton Square

    Leaving Parasol Unit, retrace your steps back to the station then turn left into Old Street itself. From here, it’s a brisk, five-minute walk past takeaways, a fire station and a couple of uninviting pubs. Immediately after the Holiday Inn Express, take a sharp left into Coronet Street, then turn right into Hoxton Square. Your first port of call is White Cube Hoxton Square at 48 Hoxton Square, N1 (020 7930 5373/www.whitecube.com), Jay Jopling’s smaller outpost following the launch in 2006 of his Mason’s Yard gallery in the West End, but still an essential destination. Don’t forget to visit the first-floor space, where one-off projects can often be seen. Leaving White Cube, follow the road round to the left of the square and grab a coffee from Macondo at 8-9 Hoxton Square, N1 (020 7729 1119/www.macondo.co.uk). If the weather permits, park yourself in the square for a few minutes before heading back past White Cube. Keep going, turning left into Hoxton Street. Store at 27 Hoxton Street, N1 (020 7729 8171/ www.storegallery.co.uk) is a few doors up on your left and shows rising stars like Bedwyr Williams and Ryan Gander.

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    MOT / Transition Gallery

    Leaving Store, turn right, then, at the end of Hoxton Street turn left. You’ll now be outside Shoreditch Magistrates’ Court, where you wait for the 55 (Leyton-bound) bus. This will take you along Hackney Road. When the bus turns left into Cambridge Heath Road (after five or so minutes) get off at the first stop and, turning slightly back on yourself, head along Andrews Road. Passing gas holders and the Regent’s Canal on your left, you come to Regent Studios, a mixed-use block set back from the road on your right. Walk through the yard to the building, then take the lift or the stairs to the fifth floor, where you’ll find MOT, Unit 54, Regent Studios, 8 Andrews Road, E8 (020 7923 9561/www.motinternational.org), a lively gallery and project space whose fifth-floor position affords spectacular views over the city. On your way back down be sure to pop into the artist-run Transition Gallery at Unit 25a, Regent Studios, 8 Andrews Road, E8 (020 7254 4202/www.transitiongallery.co.uk) on the second floor to sample its themed group shows or to pick up a copy of the latest Arty ’zine (www.artymagazine.com).

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    Seven Seven

    Coming out of Regent Studios, continue along Andrews Road. In a matter of seconds you reach Broadway Market; if it’s Saturday, there’ll be swathes of bohemian Hackneyites clutching bags of organic produce. A reliable lunch stop is Cat & Mutton (7) at 76 Broadway Market, E8 (020 7254 5599/www.catandmutton.co.uk), which serves good, gastropub fare at the far end of the market. On your way out, cross over the road to take in the emerging talent at Seven Seven, 77 Broadway Market, E8 (07808 166 215/www.sevenseven.org.uk), and Flaca, at 69 Broadway Market, E8 (020 7275 7473/www.flaca.co. uk), then retrace your steps back along Broadway Market and Andrews Road. Cross Cambridge Heath Road, then, after crossing the canal bridge, turn left into Vyner Street. Fortified from lunch, you’ll be up to tackling the East End’s main art thoroughfare; an hour should do it. Start at the artist-run Alma Enterprises, 1 Vyner Street, E2 (07769 686 826/www.almaenterprises.com), and work your way along, pausing at Ibid Projects at number 21 (020 8983 4355/www.ibidprojects.com).

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    One in the Other

    Set back from the street, number 45 is home to three galleries – Fred (020 8981 2987/www.fred-london.com) and David Risley Gallery (12) (020 8980 2202/www.davidrisleyd gallery.com) are on the ground floor and, accessed by a flight of stairs to the right of the main entrance, One in the Other (020 8983 6240/www.oneintheother.com) looks directly over Regent’s Canal. If you need another pit stop you’re round the corner from hip Bistrotheque at 23-27 Wadeson Street, E2 (020 8983 7900). Otherwise turn right then first left into Mowlem Street and carry straight on until you reach Bishop’s Way. Turn left then take the first right, Russia Lane, then first left on to Robinson Road. At the end of the road on your right you’ll see The Approach Tavern.

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    The Approach Gallery

    The Approach Gallery at 47 Approach Road, E2 (020 8983 3878/www.theapproach.co.uk) shows Michael Raedecker, Gary Webb and Rezi van Lankveld among others on the first floor. The bar downstairs is an ideal place to take an afternoon break. Leaving the Approach, turn right and walk along Approach Road, turning right into Old Ford Road. Where it meets Cambridge Heath Road turn left and continue past the Museum of Childhood before crossing Roman Road. Carry on for a minute or so with the public gardens on your left. Then, when you reach the pedestrian crossing, cross the road. On the corner of Three Colts Lane, Between Bridges at 223 Cambridge Heath Road, E2 (www.betweenbridges.net) is run by Turner Prize-winner Wolfgang Tillmans and has established a reputation for championing the unknown or overlooked.

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    From here turn right into Three Colts Lane then right again into Herald Street. On your right is Herald Street Gallery at 2 Herald Street, E2 (020 7168 2566/www.heraldst.com), a new-ish space showing fashionable young things like video artists Oliver Payne and Nick Relph. Further along, on the left, you’ll find Maureen Paley at 21 Herald Street, E2 (020 7729 4112/www.maureenpaley.com). Moving to the area long before it became the fashionable art Mecca it is today, Paley is a true pioneer of the East End; she represents the likes of Rebecca Warren, Gillian Wearing and Paul Noble. When you’re done here, veer left slightly to head along Witan Street then turn left into Cambridge Heath Road. In a couple of minutes turn left again on to Bethnal Green Road and at the first bus stop take the 8 (Victoria-bound) or 388 bus to the Shoreditch end of Bethnal Green Road (or a brisk 20-minute walk) to the Tea Building – your final destination and home to Hales at 7 Bethnal Green Road, E1 (020 7033 1938/www.halesgallery.com), where Adam Dant and Tomoko Takahashi are among the represented artists.

    From here your options are numerous. Brazilian DJ bar Favela Chic is at 91-93 Great Eastern Street, EC2 (020 7613 5228/www.favelachic.com), but if you’re keen to continue the art theme, leave Hales and turn right along Bethnal Green Road, left into Shoreditch High Street, then left into Commercial Street, where, after a ten-minute walk, you’ll find two of the art world’s favourite haunts – Fergus Henderson’s St John Bread and Wine at 94-96 Commercial Street, E1 (020 7251 0848/www.stjohnrestaurant.co.uk) and The Golden Heart pub at 110 Commercial Street, E1 (020 7247 2158), whose landlady Sandra Esquilant is now almost as famous as some of her art star regulars, who include Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas.

    Time Out First Thursdays

    On the first Thursday of every month the galleries and museums of East London open their doors late for a chance to see amazing art, culture and events after hours. With something on at more than 80 galleries and museums until 9pm on Time Out First Thursdays there will always be something free and exciting to see. Click here to visit the official site.

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