For young creatives in today’s housing crisis, getting your hands on an affordable bedroom in London is hard enough – let alone finding a functioning studio that isn't in the back end of nowhere. Nowadays, any creative space outside of your homestead requires paying close to double rent , leaving emerging artists feeling stifled and dejected without a home for their practice.

That’s where The Sarabande Foundation comes in, offering substantially subsidised studios to London’s up-and-coming designers and artists. The charitable foundation officially opened in 2015, after it was revealed Lee Alexander McQueen had left millions to support emerging artists upon his death in 2010. 

A stone's throw from Hoxton Square where McQueen set up his first studio in 1993, Sarabande found its home in a converted warehouse in Haggerston, the heart of east London’s teeming creative scene. Priced at £1 a month per sq foot, the rentable spaces include utilities, equipment, bespoke mentoring and access to all events. It’s Sarabande’s hallowed halls that have nurtured successful designers Craig Green and Stefan Cooke, painter Stephen Doherty, and animator Isabel Garrett, who all called Sarabande their home during their early careers.

Today, Sarabande’s events calendar reaches its annual apex with the opening of the Sarabande Summer Group Show. From 2017, the annual, major exhibition showcases the current roster of contemporary artists before they fly the nest. London’s galleries, curators, collectors, patrons, and journalists flock from across the capital to see the creativity for themselves, and this instalment is set to be no exception.

This summer, the cumulation of the 11 current artists' residencies fall under the aptly named SUM exhibition, marking the end of their year-long tenure. Promising to be a true homecoming experience, the display will see Sarabande’s warehouse transformed into a surreal house and garden exhibition, which will welcome guests with open arms until 7th September, 2023.

It’s no surprise that Sarabande chose feelings of home, domesticity, and nature as this year's theme, with the UK’s cost of living, climate and housing crises making these once-standard sentiments increasingly rare. Not only will the exhibition celebrate the creatives' developed disciplines, but also the feeling of family that emerged from the artist’s creative cohabitation. Expect a family affair, with the audience becoming welcome guests in what has become the artists’ second home.

In the house structure, Laila Tara H brings her starkly personal narrative to light with a hand-painted bed installation. The Iranian-born artist typically paints miniatures but has decided to use her distinctively delicate compositions and naturally derived pigments on a bigger project, which celebrates the defiant spirit of Iranian women (this comes after an inaugural fashion collaboration with Hai earlier this year). Meanwhile, Shirin Fathi combines sculpture, cosmetics, and photography for an experiential series investigating rhinoplasty and beauty ideals in the Iranian female community.

These pieces come together with fashion photographer Kasia Wozniak’s inky wet photography series, which continues her exploration of the traditional medium, to form an uncanny stage for six wearable crows, brought to life by performance artist Isabel Castro Jung.

Meanwhile, the garden area sees sculptor Taryn O’Reilly further her curiosity for the monstrous feminine with tombstone installations, as visual artist Zongbo Jiang creates a digital well, hidden under a makeshift lawn. Continuing the surrealist spectacle, weaving artist Anouska Samms combines human hair and leather to create an intricately woven tabletop, and Urte Janus constructs a fountain designed to gradually erode over time from the potent acid held inside it.

Although this extravaganza marks the end of studio space and support from Sarabande for these 11 creatives, the foundation stands by the ethos that once a Sarabande artist, always a Sarabande artist. Having grown in their practice and themselves, it’s time for these talents to pursue the flourishing careers Sarabande has prepared them for.

Over the course of the exhibition, Sarabande’s residents will also be hosting intimate dinners to really bring it home, including Spanish food to go with a performance by Isastro Jung on Saturday 12th August and a day of traditional Iranian funeral sweets served by Laila Tara H on Saturday 26th August.

Discover more here…

By Mimi Francis