There’s delight in finding a space that will morph from exhibit to gig to slumber party all in one night. Occupying garage’s, basements and defunct stores, underground art platforms have the benefit of running wild with abstract ideas and challenging concepts, maintaining a sense of experimentation that their shiny, more popular counterparts could only dream of. Below, we list some of our favourite galleries across the world that are providing sanctuary for artists and audiences hungry for something a little less predictable.
SATELLITE SPACE, LOS ANGELES
Satellite Space is a literal description of the site it occupies, which actually happens to be an Internet service provider compound in Santa Monica. The temporary exhibition platform takes over the office and storage space out of hours, once employees have finished providing Internet connections to Iraq and other parts of the Middle East for the day. Since 2012, the platform has hosted surrealist comedy sets by Kate Berlant as well as short films by Casey Jane Ellison and K8 Hardy. The program here never fails to surprise and entertain, with the location rousing as much intrigue as the works on show.
KAI MATSUMIYA, NEW YORK
If you peek at Kai Matsumiya’s backspace, you’ll notice a graffiti tag by Wu-Tang clan producer Mathematics, a mini-relic from the gallery’s past life as a hip hop merchandise store. Located at 153 1/2 Stanton Street on the Lower East Side, the contemporary fine arts space maintains the buzz of its unlikely ancestry, showing dynamic, multidisciplinary shows by artists such as Rainer Ganahl, Lucky DeBellevue and Markues. Having launched in April 2014, the gallery is quickly approaching its one-year anniversary but already seems to have locked down a curatorial approach that is both non-conformist and fearless.
UNION PACIFIC, LONDON
Nigel Dunkley and Grace Schofield are two South London expats who launched their new gallery in the city’s East End last September. Both ran separate project spaces in Peckham prior to opening Union Pacific collaboratively, a dedicated space for ambitious and boundary pushing projects by emerging artists. Their inaugural group exhibition, Union, pulled together abstract paintings, film and sculpture without the jumpy patchiness that group shows sometimes encounter, and the space still fosters this sense of unity in its programme. Following shows by Alfred Boman and Caroline Mesquita, the gallery’s forthcoming exhibition, Kernel, will open on 28 February.
TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCE, GENEVA
Truth and Consequences doesn’t yell ‘art space’ at first glance. Couched in a graffiti-marked concrete housing project, the gallery blends with its environment, exhibiting work that is as much concerned with its immediate surroundings as it is with international collaborations.
Formerly known as Graff Mourgue d’Algue up until February last year, curator Jeanne Graff and artist Paul-Aymar Mourgue D’Algue used the space to play with installation and storytelling alongside a global roaster of artists including Charles Irvin, Mathis Altmann and Vittorio Brodmann. D’Algue now solely oversees its current guise, retaining the energy of the gallery’s past whilst constantly pushing for borderless exploration. Liz Craft’s Big Girls is currently on view until 25 April.
Founded in 2005 by Shinji Nanzuka five minutes from Shibuya Station, Nanzuka is a secret trove that has morphed into an underground hangout space for Tokyo’s creative community, embracing diverse crowds in the same way it champion’s various artistic practices. All sorts of work have occupied the space, from Hajime Sorayama's sleek sexy robot paintings to Ryuichi Ohira’s life size wooden sculptures. From the 28 February, Nanzuka will show Harumi Yamaguchi’s Harumi Gals up until 4 April.
OFF VENDOME, DUSSELDORF
Whilst studying alongside artist Christopher Williams, curator and art dealer Matt Moravec has been running Off Vendome in Germany’s business capital. Since 2013, the two-story tiled space has exhibited works by Sam Anderson, Win McCarthy and is currently showing intricate Santoprene installations by Kyle Thurman till 7 March. Following the success of the Dusseldorf space, Off Vendome’s younger sibling, bearing the same name, will open its doors across the street from New York’s Chelsea Hotel later this month.
MICHAEL JON, MIAMI
Art dealer Michael Jon opened his art space in Miami mainly because he wanted to avoid setting up shop in New York or Los Angeles, favouring a scene that was less shiny and more organic.
Launched in 2012, the gallery initially settled into a tiny 180 square foot space in the Design District before moving a few blocks downtown to a former fishing supply warehouse. Staging shows grand in size and concept, Jon manages to consistently bring in artists who completely own the space. Work by Laddie John Dill, Cayetano Ferrer and Michael Hunter will be on show till 7 March.
THE DUCK, BERLIN
If you’re gallery hopping in Monumentenstr, you’ll need to pop down to The Duck, a stones throw away from Kreuzberg memorial and Viktoriapark. Established in 2014 on the border of Schöneberg and Kreuzberg, the gallery has housed a giant purple bug sculpture by Veit Laurent kurz, a series of mummified limbs by Ellie de Verdier and a taped skeleton trapped in an office chair by Renaud Jerez. Favouring the humorous and the monstrous, this Berlin space is a haven for the otherworldly.
KENDALL KOPPE, GLASGOW
Opened in late 2010, Kendall Koppe is a white cube space with a rougher edge, it’s cracked ceiling a reminder of a less aesthetically concerned past. Overlooking the River Clyde, the gallery regularly invites the work of international artists up north – Emory Douglas’s Black Panther Party illustrations and Josh Faught’s fluorescent textiles are particular highlights. The gallery now represents seven artists including Niall MacDonald, whose current exhibition, Elvis Nipple Plinth, is on view until 22 March. To add to the mystery, the gallery will be changing its name come mid-year.
THE PARADISE GARAGE, LOS ANGELES
Located on an alley behind 1212 Palms Boulevard is a quaint green cabin that has been putting on some of most vibrant art shows, parties and performances in Cali. Artist Liz Craft opened Paradise Garage along with her husband Pentti Monkkonen after failing to find a space in New York that matched the chilled vibe of the west coast. Just ten minutes away from Venice Beach, the space has worked with Julien Ceccaldi and Bernadette Corporation to name a few. Work by Chris Kraus will be on till the end of this month.