Ginny on Frederick: a Sandwich-Shop-turned-Art-Gallery
Freddie Powell is shaking up the London art scene. On a not so regular Friday, I make my way to the Barbican, leaving at Farringdon tube station and stopping in my tracks shortly after on an unassuming street. Hiding in plain sight is Sunset II Sandwich Bar: “Hot & Cold Food to Take Away”, having just had lunch, the sign above the door doesn’t sound too appealing, however, I’m not here to look at food but art. Amongst the craze of Frieze Week, Freddie is kind enough to let me steal a bit of his time and ask him a few questions.
At 91-93 Charterhouse St stands Ginny on Frederick, a sandwich-shop-turned-art-gallery. The space is comprised of a door and approximately 10 square meters. “I think it used to sell Panini. Sadly, I never had a sandwich from here, it had slightly weird hours because of the meat market opposite. And, it’s tiny, so I’m still confused about where they cooked, but I would love to talk to whoever opened Sunset.” Freddie tells me he used to live around and walked by the space several times before even realising it was there. The poor Sandwich Shop closed during lockdown, Freddie spotted it during the Summer and reopened Ginny on Frederick in September 2021.
“I opened a space called Ginny on Frederick because it was on Frederick Terrace in Haggerston. It was an archway space, and I did one group show called Octopus and then three weeks later, the pandemic happened.” The first attempt at a permanent space was run down by COVID-19, but Freddie is grateful for it as it allowed the shows and programme to further develop in the standstill of lockdown. However, the project has a longer history, it was previously called Ginny Projects and has been operating since around 2015.
“Yeah, Ginny is my mother’s name.”, he says with a proud smile. The name emerged out of chance in Powell’s first show. “I did a show with Alexandra Metcalf in a hotel room in Seekonk, Massachusetts. It was a mediaeval themed hotel, it was so stupid!”, he laughs. “But the show was amazing and then someone wanted to do press on it!”, he recalls worryingly. Having not yet named the project, as a young graduate still figuring out his space, it was named Ginny because the hotel room had been paid for on his mother’s credit card.
An inborn self-starter, Freddie tells me “if you haven’t been offered a show, just put one up in your bedroom”, this attitude has let him to where he is now. One of the first art pieces he bought was showing in someone else’s living room, and one of his first shows involved having tea with his mother. He searches for the unconventional and the new, believing that is why people are attracted to Ginny on Frederick.
After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design, Powell moved back to London, making his way through the gallery circuit in spaces like Union Pacific and White Cube, while still “dramatically organising projects and a lot of publications”, which led him to the New York Art Book Fair, the Paris Ass Book Fair and many other independent projects.
“Friendships quickly become professional relationships, that quickly become networks and scenes emerging.” Through a chain of connections, from an artist who shared a studio with another, to their friend who visited and the friend of a friend who had an interesting practice, grew the programme of Ginny on Frederick. Initially focusing on London-based artists – also because of the pandemic – and currently expanding their circle, planning on showing artists from Vienna, Paris or Lisbon. “Now we’ve done a year of programming, I can see some nice common threads, like an interesting performativity or obsessive practise or strands of weirdness.”
“I really like the space to transform with the artist and what they want to do.” Spanning from a roadhouse or motel, to a shower or a clearance sale, Ginny has a shape-shifting quality, almost as in reverse site-specificity. As its own entity, Freddie often calls Ginny by its first name – she has her own personality.
Currently, the space is showing its first group show, Civil Twilight, comprising works by Guendalina Cerruti, Sam Cottington, Evangeline Ling, Hamish Pearch, Gal Schindler, Mary Stephenson and Michelle Uckotter. “Civil twilight is this specific time that exists between sunset and when it gets dark, the period when it’s still light”, a time of potential.
The programme is usually planned six months in advance, already building in early conversations for the end of 2023. An array of exciting artists is planned for the new year, he walks me through some of the programme while I answer with “uhhs” and “ahhhs”, stopping him when he mentions Jaime Welsh. The Lisbon-born, London-based artist is set to exhibit in the Spring, a show I certainly won’t miss.
“Ginny has been a commercial gallery since day one, which has been great, the support has been able to keep it going. Ginny has a lot of heads. That’s why I can be here and do ambitious shows. And then, yeah, we’ll see what happens next.” Freddie Powell is shaking up the London art scene. All we have to do is pay close attention.