The Portman is a public art gallery which shares its space with Morpeth Secondary School. The gallery aims to make engaging in contemporary art as natural as playing a ball game.
The school is an ideal location for the gallery’s work and provides an exciting space for artists to exhibit their work and collaborate with the students. The gallery attracts a wide audience and is constantly seeking ways to encourage new visitors from the surrounding area.
Andrew Cooper, artist and educator at Morpeth School, has been the main driving force behind the gallery for over a decade alongside Jane Stewart and Agnieszka Wojtanowicz. Since 2015 artist and educator Sanna Charles has worked as a curator for the gallery, bringing in outside organisations such at the Marx Memorial Library.
The role of education is an important part of art discourse in the UK and the Portman Gallery is a project that bridges the world of education and that of contemporary art by inviting classes into the gallery, as well as artists into the classroom, giving students the opportunity to exhibit projects with our exhibiting artists.
The central belief informing the setting up of the gallery is that contemporary visual art is not simply something which needs to be explained to the uninitiated; in fact it can play a much more fundamental educational role. Good art is able to disrupt habits of thought, and initiate a questioning approach to important issues. As an activity art is a method which involves approaching the world in a critical way. The exhibitions will therefore be a means of stimulating independent thinking and will provide skills in tackling open-ended questions.
The gallery is located in the heart of London’s East End and we aim to create an exhibition environment that is open, friendly, and opposed to the sometimes exclusionary protocols of commercial spaces.