Established in April 2013 and situated in Bloomsbury, Dairy Art Centre was a public space for contemporary visual art. It was a private, non commercial, organisation founded by Frank Cohen and Nicolai Frahm, cementing their lifelong passion for art and their commitment to increasing access to the visual arts by opening up Dairy’s exhibitions to the public for free, and through its newly created education and internship training programmes.
Frank Cohen and Nicolai Frahm had known each other for fifteen years and had previously worked together on a number of projects. Dairy Art Centre was their first collaboration that provided exhibition opportunities on a major scale.
Frank Cohen is one of the world’s most influential and prolific collectors of international contemporary art. He began collecting Modern British art in the 1970s and in the early 1990s became a patron and supporter of the Young British Artists (YBAs). He also collected American and German art of the 1980s and 1990s and more recently has added contemporary Chinese and Indian art to his interests.
From 2007 to 2012 Cohen pioneered Initial Access, a foundation in Wolverhampton designed to exhibit and promote younger artists. An exhibition of his Modern British Collection featuring artists such as LS Lowry, Stanley Spencer, Edward Burra and Eduardo Paolozzi was held at Chatsworth in 2012, and he was member of the Turner Prize jury in 2003.
Nicolai Frahm grew up in Copenhagen in a family collecting and showing post-war European art to the public at their private foundation. In 1997 he moved to London to set up for himself. Since then, he has earned a reputation as a leading collector, patron of the arts and successful art advisor.
Frahm’s own collection draws on post-war European abstract art, as well as art from the late 1970s to present, and incorporates both emerging and established artists from America, Europe and Asia.
Jenny Jones, an internationally recognised architect, whose work includes groundbreaking projects such as the Prada Epicentre in New York City, transformed the interior of Dairy Art Centre. Her sensitive adaptation highlights the building’s unique, raw, industrial features with high ceilings and skylights, which provided a vibrant exhibition space for contemporary art. The history of the site as a once operating milk depository has been incorporated within the final plans, whilst introducing strong contemporary design features.
The building was divided into various exhibition spaces offering diverse communal, artistic and curatorial opportunities: two main halls, a converted milk fridge, two outdoor sculpture yards, and future plans for an artist-designed milk bar and cafe, a book and media outlet, an education space and a design space.
Externally, John M. Armleder has conceived and designed an alternative frontage for the entrance. For the launch of the venue and as Dairy’s first exhibiting artist, he created a sparkling glitter stencil of our logo. Applied, the commissioned signage glistens and catches the light to reveal a subtle rendering of ‘Dairy’.
Dairy Art Centre’s education programme, developed alongside exhibitions, increased access to visual arts, developed emerging art professionals, and provided a dedicated space as a local resource for families and the local community to learn more about contemporary visual art.
Dairy Art Centre’s Internship Programme was initiated to aid career development. The scheme provided a graduate or early career professional training and support in arts administration, exhibition making and gallery operations. This was an exciting opportunity for an integral member of the team who was involved in all aspects of the Centre. Each internship was paid and provided full time work at Dairy Art Centre for five months.
Family Days and workshops served to develop our growing reputation as a valued institution for contemporary visual art and enabled us to extend our audience, beyond the art going regulars, to attract new audiences. Family Days were led by artists who were early in their career to provide them with the crucial first steps of working as a professional visual artist.
Through our Exhibition Tours, our dedicated team of volunteers conducted their own research of artists’ practices to gain a deeper understanding of the exhibitions and impart their knowledge of the exhibitions to engage and offer visitors a unique gallery-going experience.
Volunteers were encouraged to participate in the programme for at least one regular day per week during exhibitions.
As with the exhibitions programme, the education programme underscored the vision of Dairy Art Centre to become an inviting place where people wanted to be and where they could explore, discuss and have fun.
Dairy Art Centre supported and engaged with contemporary visual art at the highest international level. The exhibition programme comprised temporary exhibitions that drew on the collections of its founders, representing internationally renowned figures celebrated worldwide, as well as lesser known artists. In addition, Dairy provided opportunities for curators, undiscovered artists and commissions ambitious new work for its unique 12,500 square feet of exhibition spaces, formerly a milk depository used by Express Dairy Company Ltd.
The programme varied in format: major survey exhibitions of individual artists often take over the entire Centre; two or three solo-shows run concurrently opening up a dialogue between artists works; and large-scale group shows of emerging and established artists provide juxtapositions that offered fresh opportunities to reappraise work that may be familiar, and to consider younger artists presenting work in this context.
Each exhibition was approached with renewed energy, often Dairy Art Centre worked with talented emerging international curators who played with curatorial processes to introduce a surprising and exciting dimension to developing the programme. Artists were invited to respond to the unique architecture of the Centre, which enabled the realisation of new work and provided many presentation possibilities in two main galleries, a converted fridge, two further exhibition rooms and outdoor spaces.
Our adjunct programme of talks, lectures and events aimed to engage arts professionals in the wider themes of the exhibition and provided networking opportunities and potential partnerships and future collaborations to gestate.
Dairy Art Centre’s exhibition programme was devised by its founders or by invited guest curators.