London is a tidal pool of cultural forces, with currents of artistic practice ebbing and flowing to different areas, and indeed away from the capital altogether. In the 1990s the city saw the birth of the YBA movement, a grassroots bubbling up of talent, self-promotion and controversy. With it East London, especially the environs of Shoreditch and Hoxton, came to the fore as a melting pot of artistic expression with warrens of studio spaces and new galleries opening every week.
With the Olympics around the corner and the forcible redevelopment of large swathes of the area, it has become evident that much of the impetus amongst visual artists has moved from this increasingly gentrified locale and to move south of the river to Peckham, Deptford and Bermondsey, where rent is lower and space less monopolized by property developers. Curator Natasha Hoare, who is also an art guide for Fox&Squirrel, a team of experts which offers bespoke experiences for clients wanting to explore London's cultural scene (including guided private walks and events and masterclasses hosted by eminent creatives) , says: "London is an ever-shifting art centre, and gallerists like Hannah Barry have ensured the Peckham has come to the fore as an exciting new artistic centre linked to the south London art schools like Camberwell and Goldsmiths."
The YBAs themselves have been a favourite choice for exhibitions taking place in the Olympic year, with Damien Hirst's retrospective opening at Tate Modern this week and Gillian Wearing showing at the Whitechapel Gallery. Many of the 'group' however, have left the capital. Both Sarah Lucas and Abigail Lane have retreated to costal Suffolk to live and work. Indeed both artists have been central to Suffolk's burgeoning reputation as an exciting artistic destination with the founding of SNAP, the visual arts programme of Aldeburgh Festival. This year's exhibition includes Gavin Turk, Brian Eno, Ryan Gander, Matthew Darbyshire, Scott King, Maggi Hambling and more, all responding to the locale of Snape Maltings, the home of the internationally renowned classical music festival.
"Suffolk is following in the footsteps of many other regional locations challenging London's cultural dominance. Folkestone hosts a Triennale which has impressed both art critics and locals, whilst major public art galleries have opened across the UK including Insite Colchester, Turner Contemporary in Margate, Nottingham Contemporary, Towner in Eastborne and MIMA in
Middleborough", adds Natasha.
Further regional arts impetus has been provided by the Antony D'Offay collection which has been gifted to the nation via the Tate and Scottish National Galleries and is bringing the likes of Andy Warhol, Martin Creed, Richard Long, Joseph Beuys and Bruce Nauman to locations as far flung as Aberdeen.
The Cultural Olympiad itself is largely regionally based, with projects taking place across the UK such as Alex Hartley's Nowhereisland which arrives in the South West soon, and the coastal installation Peace Camp, a collaboration between renowned director Deborah Warner and actress Fiona Shaw amongst others, which will encircle the UK sharing love poetry and capturing audio portraits of people across the country.
London remains as ever a powerhouse of visual art with new centers popping up in new areas constantly. However the capital is by no means the only option for those seeking both traditional and experimental exhibitions of world class artists.
SNAP 2012 runs at Snape Maltings, Suffolk from June 9th - 24th.