Butler's Wharf was a former riverside warehouse dating from the late 19th century, within the complex of streets and buildings immediately south and east of Tower Bridge.
In the early 1970's many of the buildings in that area had been cheaply purchased by property speculators with a view to re-development. In London at that time, many housing associations and cooperatives were being formed to negotiate cheap rents for derelict properties in the interim period before demolition or redevelopment took place. Many artists lived
and worked under these kinds of arrangements, and it was a group of friends who had met while at art college in the Isle of Man and Brighton who together rented a floor of Block 2B, Butlers Wharf in late 1975, later joined by recent art graduates from Newcastle, Leeds and Maidstone.
From 1975-78, the artists' space at 2B Butler's Wharf was a key venue for early UK video art and performance art, used among others by Derek Jarman and the artists and dancers who subsequently founded Chisenhale Studios and Chisenhale Dance Space, including Philip Jeck.
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Butler's Wharf was built between 1871-73 as a shipping wharf and warehouse complex, to store tea, spices and other imported goods unloaded from ships using the port of London. It contained one of the largest tea warehouse in the world. In 1971, following the relocation of the docks further east and the rise of containerisation, Butler's Wharf and other warehouses in the area fell into disuse.
From 1984, Butler's Wharf has been redeveloped by Conran Roche into luxury flats, with restaurants and shops on the ground floor.
Butler's Wharf is Grade II listed.
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Exhibitions and events at 2B Butler's Wharf:
The first person to put on a publicized live performance at 2B was Kevin Atherton in November 1975.
In May 1976, regular Saturday evening shows began with presentations by members of the original group, quickly extended to shows by close associates and then opened to all artists wishing to use the space for presentations of their time-based work. In eighty shows over two and a half years, thirty involved film projection, a dozen used video, a further dozen were sound pieces; several used light as a primary element, some were pure performance art, while many used combinations of different media.
By May 1978 when the building was closed down by the developers, there had been over 80 shows by more than 60 artists.
online available at: http://www.studycollection.co.uk/2B/events.html
(accessed September 2013)
Critical Writing in Art & Design (2013), After Butler's Wharf: Essays on a Working Building, London: Royal College of Art (ISBN: 978-1-907342-71-4)
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