SPACE was founded by artists Bridget Riley and Peter Sedgley in 1968. They recognised the dire need of professional visual artists for affordable studios in London and were inspired by a visit to artists’ spaces in New York. While visiting St. Katharine dock beside the Thames, Peter Sedgley swiftly realised that the wasteland of empty warehouses might offer a solution to the problem, and secured the support of the Greater London Council and Arts Council of Great Britain to open their first studio site. In the following years, many buildings across London were converted into studios, and SPACE’s model of working with the property sector to secure new uses for buildings was emulated across the world.
From mid 1970 to mid 1980 the Arts Council provided studio conversion grants and during these years SPACE frequently obtained preferential agreements from landlords. These arrangements reflected the basic condition of the property, the temporary accommodation offered and the property market of the time. Many landlords were supportive of SPACE and happy to have their properties occupied to avoid further deterioration. Open Studios became an annual fixture, an innovative way for artists to present solo shows of their work directly to the public in their own studio. Matts Gallery at Martello Street Studios grew out of this initiative.
Following the loss of the AIR Gallery, SPACE during the 90s increasingly acted as a development agency, forming valuable links between commercial companies, public bodies and a wide range of artists, arts organisations and cultural groups. A number of new sites were developed, particularly in Hackney in partnership with Hackney Council.
In 1999 SPACE developed the new Bridget Riley Studios in Bow, where it opened the SPACE Place media training facility and also took on additional floors across the road in Britannia Works, one of its long-standing studio sites. In 2003 SPACE opened The Triangle, a new 40,000 sq ft HQ building in the heart of Hackney, supported by the London Development Agency, ERDF and Arts Council England, which enabled the organisation to develop a highly regarded gallery programme and training facilities.
Innovative property partnerships devised by SPACE with Housing Associations, regeneration agencies and developers enabled the development of new studios at Arlington, Dean Street, Timber Wharf, Peabody Yard, The Malthouse in Barking, The White Building and Old Southwark Town Hall.
SPACE has developed an innovative programme offering artist support (exhibitions, residencies and bursaries, mentoring and an Art + Technology programme) as well as learning and participation programmes inspiring communities around its studio sites.
SPACE entered a new era, acquiring freeholds and developing its own permanent studio sites: Deborah House, Hackney (2010), Haymerle Road, Peckham (2012) and Brickfield Studios, Bow (opened 2015). This means that one-third of SPACE artist tenants are now in freeholds owned by SPACE. An Arts Council England Capital Grant has helped upgrade 4 further studio buildings.
SPACE stepped outside of London in 2016, working with Colchester Borough Council and Essex County Council to open 37 Queen Street in Colchester, with 40 studios and desk space for creative businesses in a listed town center building which has been refurbished to a high spec.
SPACE opened two new studio partnership projects developed with Alumno Developments. These are Havil Street Studios in Southwark close to South London Gallery and Aspire Point beside London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Both include custom-designed studios of a high quality and the buildings are on long leases.We opened SPACE Ilford in December 2019 at Redbridge Town Hall.
This partnership with the London Borough of Redbridge is part of Ilford Town Centre regeneration and provides 34 artist studios providing much-needed creative workspace in the borough as well as a new gallery and event space in the refurbished town hall building. The work was designed sensitively by HAT Projects to make the most of the listed features in the building, including art deco tiling and parquet floors.
Today SPACE manages over 330,000 sq ft of studio space with over 800 tenants and 20 studio sites, and delivers extensive artist development and public programmes.
SPACE is a social enterprise constituted as a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity no. 267021.