London’s newest art gallery is in a huge Grade II-listed church

A beautiful listed church smack dab in the heart of Islington has just become London’s newest art gallery. Castor Gallery, which was formerly in Fitzrovia and even more formerly in Deptford, has taken up residence in Holy Trinity Church in Cloudesley Square. 

It’s a pretty staggering transformation. The church had been in a poor state up until recently, but it has now been deconsecrated and had its vast roof repaired, which has paved the way for Castor to swoop in.

Castor Gallery
Castor Gallery

The church was built between 1827-29, designed by Charles Barry who later became the principal architect of Houses of Parliament. The church closed for Anglican worship in the 1970s and between 1980 and 2017 was leased by the Celestial Church of Christ. The construction of the gallery spaces was done single-handedly by Castor’s director Andy Wicks. ‘My vision for Castor at Holy Trinity was to create a series of white cubes within the church, each with a unique look whilst taking away the visual noise of a busy interior which I feel could be too overpowering for most artists,’ he says. 

The result is a series of white-walled rooms-within-a-room. There are two main gallery spaces: a smaller one as you walk in and a bigger room with a dramatically angled ceiling. 

There are hints of the church’s past everywhere, with the build leaving space for stained glass, war memorials, cracked floor tiles and wooden crucifixes to poke through. ‘Keeping these existing moments creates that balance and reminds the audience of where they are,’ says Wicks. The current exhibition, by Mexican artist Fabian Ramirez, takes full advantage of the ecclesiastical setting, riffing on ideas of christianity, conversion and oppression. 

Fabian Ramirez at Castor Gallery
Fabian Ramirez at Castor Gallery

But Castor now finds itself in Islington, an area not exactly heaving with art spaces (with the exception of Cubitt Gallery and the Estorick Collection, art pickings are relatively slim up in N1). ‘I’ve always been a believer that it’s not just about the location but what you can offer to an audience,’ Wicks says. ’Castor at Holy Trinity enables us to have a beautiful, architecturally rich space which would be near impossible to find in a W1 postcode. The breadth of offering here is far beyond a shopfront space and as such, more of a destination I believe people will want to travel to Islington for.’ 

And who knows, maybe Castor is the answer to Islington’s art prayers. Amen to that. 

Fabian Ramirez: ‘Firing of the Idols’ is at Castor Gallery, Cloudesley Square, until May 18. Free. More details here.

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