by Ann Jones
When White Cube opened its doors on Duke Street, St James’s in 1993 it was to a small first floor room – a perfect white cube. One of the smallest gallery spaces in Europe, but one which quickly became one of the most influential. The gallery functioned as a project space and artists showed there only once. At the time West End galleries were stuffy places, traditional art dealers selling the work of long-established and often long-dead artists on the secondary market. Video installations by Gary Hill or large scale, colourful assemblages by Jessica Stockholder didn’t go with the territory. With Victoria Miro Gallery, then on Cork Street, being perhaps the most notable exception, contemporary art happened elsewhere (sometimes elsewhere in the West End or thereabouts, but nonetheless, elsewhere).
Within a few years, White Cube expanded east to Hoxton Square but retained the Duke Street space, and went on to construct a purpose-built space in Mason’s Yard, the first new free-standing building in St James’s in over three decades. White Cube then has defied expectations from the start. But even so, the space is Bermondsey opened in October 2011 is in another league.