• 1988_Whitechapel Open_high res_04

    Selecting works for the Whitechapel Open, 1988

  • 2018-06-25.1138059

    Installation shot of The London Open 2018, photo by Stephen White

  • 2015-08-0393096

    Installation shot of The London Open 2015, featuring the work of Brian and Demelza Watts and Ben Woodleson

  • 1988_Whitechapel Open_high res_03 crop

    Selecting works for the Whitechapel Open, 1988

  • 2018-06-25138026

    Installation shot of The London Open 2018, photo by Stephen White

  • London Open_Dan Weill-16

    Installation shot of The London Open 2015

  • 1994_Whitechapel Open_high res

    Whitechapel Gallery Promotional Image, 1994, Courtesy Whitechapel Gallery

History of The London Open

In 1932, Whitechapel Gallery established an open-call exhibition for all artists living and working in East London called the East End Academy. Known today as The London Open, for almost 90 years since its inception this exhibition has been a core part of the gallery’s exhibition programme, offering artists an opportunity to show their work publicly.  

Originally open to ‘all artists living and working east of the Aldgate Pump,’ The East End Academy was staged every year and included every artwork submitted. It was a cross-section of creative activity in East London. As East London and the ecology of the art world has changed, so too has the name, format and selection process of the exhibition. At times, all the works submitted were hung in the galleries, at others, a nominated committee made the selection; some years only paintings were accepted, in others, paintings and drawings were accompanied by portable sculptures, knitting, tapestries, objects and costumes.  In the 1970s, as artists came to move to the East End and set up studios, the exhibition was renamed the East London Open. In 1977, it was renamed the Whitechapel Open. The resulting shows presented the work of artists who lived locally, such as Antony GormleyRichard WentworthCornelia Parker and Rachel Whiteread 

By the 1990s, the Whitechapel Open had established itself as a biennial exhibition and East-London wide Open Studios programme, and formalised the selection process with a newly invited judging panel each year. In 2004, the show reverted to its original name, The East End Academy, and in 2009 it was established as a triennial exhibition.   

In 2012, The East End Academy was renamed The London Open to celebrate the whole city as a hub of global artistic activitySince then, artists from all over London – not just the East End – have been eligible to apply, and the exhibitions in 2012, 2015 and 2018 have celebrated the vibrancy and diversity of emerging artist’s work from across the capital. The 2021 edition in particular will celebrate and explore the diversity of artists, ideas and mediums.  

In all its forms, these open-call exhibitions have served as important launch pads for the careers of many artists working across a variety of mediums, including Larry AchiampongFrank BowlingAlice ChannerAnish KapoorHeather Phillipson, Paula RegoVeronica Ryan and Bob and Roberta Smith