Category: Celebrating 120 Years of Whitechapel Gallery — Published:

In celebration of our 120th anniversary, join former Whitechapel Gallery Director Iwona Blazwick in our Reading Room for a rare glimpse into the Gallery’s historic archives.

Here we travel through time to visit the Gallery’s construction and founding exhibition in 1901, Modern Pictures by Living Artists, Pre-Raphaelites and Old Masters. From there we chart a course that brings us to Barbara Hepworth‘s first major, monographic retrospective in 1954, the figurative icon Frida Khalo‘s UK premiere in 1982 and the display of Pablo Picasso‘s momentous Guernica in 1939.

As we reflect on the last 120 years, we’re reminded of the Gallery’s mission to bring great art from around the world to the people of East London – and beyond. Below you’ll find newly rediscovered gems from our archives that we hope will provide a bit of inspiration and joy, just as they’ve done for us.

English Sporting Pictures, 1950. Courtesy of the Whitechapel Gallery Archive.

David Hockney, 1970. Courtesy of the Whitechapel Gallery Archive.

Barbara Hepworth, 1962. Courtesy of the Whitechapel Gallery Archive.

Richard Long, 1981. Courtesy of the Whitechapel Gallery Archive.

The Guerrilla Girls pictured outside the Whitechapel Gallery. Photo: David Parry/PA Wire.

Watch this space and follow us on social media as we continue to share rarely seen snippets from our 120 year history, including fascinating archival imagery, audio recordings with artists through the ages and blog posts from staff and friends of the Gallery who share their own memories from the building’s colourful past!

Along the way, we’d also love to hear from you. Did you have a particularly exciting visit one year? Is there an exhibition that you wish you could see again and again? Have you encountered an artist whose work continues to inspire? Please share your thoughts with us at or on social media using #WG120 – we’d be delighted to have you as part of our story.

Help secure our next 120 years

The generosity of individuals, trusts and foundations, companies and statutory bodies remains vital to our delivery world-leading exhibitions and pioneering cultural programmes, and we are hugely grateful to Arts Council England and all of our current supporters.

As a registered charity, gifts of all sizes make a real difference. Find out more about how you can support our future, or make a donation today.