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The Buck stopped here

Cheers! Twenty years of London's Approach Gallery

East End art space celebrates at the closing of its anniversary show

Louisa Buck

The Approach directors Jake Miller and Emma Robertson in front of works by gallery artists Dave Muller and Gary Webb Louisa Buck

Hurrah for the London gallery Approach which is celebrating two decades of putting on world class shows, all from a couple of rooms above an East End pub in Bethnal Green. The roll call is too long to cite all the major artists, local and international, contemporary and historical, who have either shown or been involved with this modest but beautifully proportioned space which is still accessed through the busy downstairs bar of this popular watering hole. Just the ‘D’s alone in their alphabetical roster of participants encompass Enrico David, Peter Davies, Jeremy Deller, Salvador Dali, Tacita Dean, Sonia Delaunay, Kaye Donachie and Raoul Dufy—with Peter Doig as a guest curator for a show of painting in the gallery’s first year.

A testament to the enduring affection for the Approach was the crowd attending Saturday’s finissage pub lunch for their anniversary show which included artists Michael Craig-Martin, Enrico David, Caragh Thuring and Sarah Staton as well as the South London Gallery director Margot Heller and the Serpentine Galleries’ Lizzie Carey-Thomas. When I interviewed the Approach’s founder-director Jake Miller back in the early years, he told me that his main criteria for the gallery was to put on shows that “I want to see” and over the last two decades his taste has been widely and emphatically shared. However, for some of us, the archive film of Approach’s antics that accompanied the anniversary exhibition was maybe a little too harsh a reminder of the passing of time. Viewing this parade of our more youthful selves, the Bloomberg New Contemporaries director Kirsty Ogg pithily observed that “everyone smoked and we all had more hair!”