Studio Voltaire was founded in 1994 by a collective of twelve artists, who set up a studio space in a disused tram shed on Voltaire Road, Clapham. In 1999 the organisation moved to its current location on Nelsons Row, becoming a registered charity in 2001. The move to a larger site enabled us to expand our provision of affordable studios and offer a dedicated gallery space in a Victorian former chapel. It’s a unique resource for the local community, and has grown into one of the most innovative and respected not-for-profits in the country.
From the beginning, our belief has been in giving exposure to underrepresented artists, allowing Studio Voltaire to offer an alternative and agenda-setting view of contemporary art. Many of our shows are an artists first solo exhibition in London, and we invest in the production of work that might not always be possible in commercial galleries or institutions, giving artists the chance to expand their practice. Our programme is intergenerational, supporting both emerging artists and those who have been underrepresented in their career but deserve a champion. This unique way of working allows us to develop long-term relationships with artists, often working together on multiple occasions.
Studio Voltaire’s gallery space is defined by a dramatic vaulted ceiling and is flooded with natural light, providing a dynamic space to work in that is very unusual in London. Previous exhibited artists include Nairy Baghramian, Phyllida Barlow, Simon Bedwell, Nicholas Byrne, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Chris Evans, Thea Djordjadze, Liam Gillick, Anthea Hamilton, Emma Hedditch, Intoart, Dawn Mellor, Henrik Olesen, Elizabeth Price, Jo Spence, Joanne Tatham & Tom O’Sullivan, Donald Urquhart, Lawrence Weiner and Cathy Wilkes.
Alongside exhibitions, our ambitious calendar includes live events, offsite projects, commissions and an educational programme. Meanwhile our studios currently house over 45 London based artists, ranging from internationally recognised practitioners to recent graduates and includes two groups supporting artists with learning difficulties – Actionspace and Intoart. In recent years, the studios have also hosted a number of residencies for national and international artists; partners have included Berlin Senate, Collective Gallery, British Council, Outset and Royal College of Art.
We are an inclusive organisation, committed to widening participation from individuals and groups who may not typically access contemporary art. Since 2002 Studio Voltaire has been running wide reaching education projects and in 2011 we initiated Not Our Class, a unique programme of participation and research based within a community and contemporary art context.
2014 marked 20 years of Studio Voltaire supporting artists. In this time we have grown from a local artist collective to receive regular funding from Arts Council England as a sign of best practice. We continue to generate the majority of our core income independently via studio rents, commercial hires and trading. Our strengths and ambitions have grown over the years and we are proud of our unique way of working, which remains close to the creative process at a grassroots level and puts great emphasis on risk-taking. By placing the artist at the centre of everything we do we aim to continue to develop our programmes to engage with wider audiences into the future.
Ella Kruglyanskaya, Girls on Break, 2014. Acrylic on Plywood. Installation View, How to work together, Studio Voltaire, London. Courtesy of the artist, Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York and Kendall Koppe, Glasgow. Credit Andy Keate.