Dear I Lobo You readers, today’s post features a bit of the untold history of art, exploring the past lives of some of Europe’s most interesting and amazing Art galleries. From old churches to roller skating rinks, power plants to subterranean reservoirs, prepare yourself to discover fascinating renovations!
TJ Boulting, London
Founded in 1808 as an ironmongery and sanitaryware manufactory, TJ Boulting & Sons is located in the heart of Fitzrovia. The building still has the original Art Nouveau lettering in gold and green mosaic tiles. In 2011, stimulated by the building’s roots, Gigi Giannuzzi and Hannah Watson, the current director, organized TJ Boulting as an art gallery space, specialized in photography, photojournalism, and contemporary art titles.
Designed in 1930 by the architect Adrien Blomme, as the flagship of the Wielemans Ceuppens breweries, and a landmark on the Brussels urban landscape. Renovated in 2005-2008, some traces of the original building remain intact, to the delight of visitors, like the brewing room. In 2007, the building gained a new life, as one of the most important art galleries in Europe, a center of contemporary art. It has an auditorium, studio workshops for artists-in-residence, and a café and bookshop in the large brewing hall!
KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin
What most people don’t know about KS, a famous cultivator of radical contemporary art, is that the building initially was a margarine factory, called Berolina Margarinefabrik. In 1991, Klaus Biesenbach, Alexandra Binswanger, Philipp von Doering, Clemens Homburger, and Alfonso Rutigliano recognized the potential in this decaying building as a platform for provocative avant-garde art.
E-Werk, Luckenwalde, Germany
The original building was constructed in 1913 as a fuel power plant and closed its doors soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall. However, it still generates energy nowadays. The change from a power station to an art gallery was a long path, it was resurrected, 30 years later, by Artist Pablo Wendel and his not-for-profit arts organization, Performance Electrics. Nowadays it offers residential programs, workshops, studio space for artists, and art exhibitions.
La Patinoire Royale – Galerie Valérie Bach, Brussels
This is one of the most art galleries in Europe and with a long past history. First, it began as a roller skating rink, in 1877. Then, it turned into car wheels as the space transformed into a Bugatti garage, in 1990, and during World War Two, it became a depot for weapons. Finally, in 2015 it turned into a contemporary art space when acquired by gallerist Valérie Bach. The focus of this art gallery is kinetic installations and abstraction.
Starting its history as a subterranean reservoir, built from 1856-1859, with the purpose to improve the water supply to Copenhagen, it’s now one of the world-class art galleries. The building was abandoned for many years before rising as an unexpected new life in 2001 as The Museum of Modern Glass Art. Then, in 2013, continued its history in the art world, it was acquired by the Frederiksberg Museums and hosts ambitious annual art installations with globally renowned contemporary artists.
Arquipélago, São Miguel, Azores, Portugal
A 122-year old industrial volcanic stone and timber building in São Miguel Island, Azores, turned from an alcohol factory into a “culture factory”. It Reboned as the center for contemporary arts, an interdisciplinary creative hub, managed by Portuguese architects Menos é Mais. The program of visual art exhibitions, workshops, performances, concerts, and artist residencies represents a forward-looking fusion of geography, eras, and creative disciplines.
Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan
This building was once one of the most burgeoning industrial centers in Milan, in 1886. Railway carriages, electric and steam locomotives were produced in this factory that was later adapted to manufacture airplanes and projectiles during the First World War effort. After a decade of abandonment, most signs of the building’s past life are still intact, and Pirelli converted the space into a non-profit art foundation, in 2004, staging important annual solo shows and permanent installations.