The Whitechapel Gallery, originally the East End Art Gallery, was established in the late-19th century by Canon Samuel Barnett, the local vicar of St Jude’s, and his wife Henrietta./p>
The couple aimed to bring art to the people of the East End, and the Arts and Crafts architect Charles Harrison Townsend was commissioned to design a new gallery.
Built in 1897 – 99, the gallery opened to the public in 1901 and was an immediate success. The building, with its distinctive fa�ade, has light and airy galleries over two floors. In 1985 the gallery underwent a major rebuilding and refurbishment programme by Colquhorn and Miller, re-opening the upper gallery and providing extra space for all forms of art.
The gallery has never acquired a permanent collection but focuses on hosting a changing programme of exhibitions. Over the years many important artists have been exhibited at Whitechapel.
In 1938 Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ was shown here as part of the ‘Aid Spain’ exhibition, Jackson Pollock displayed his work at the gallery in the 1950s, David Hockney’s first show was held here in 1970 and Lucian Freud had a major exhibition in 1993.
Today, the independent gallery enjoys an international reputation for its series of shows of major contemporary artists. These shows are interspersed with exhibitions reflecting the cultural origins of the people of the local community.
The biennial Whitechapel Open is the only major show devoted to east London’s colony of artists.
The gallery also holds a workshop and lecture programme, but general admission is free of charge.