Auto Italia is a non-profit visual arts institution dedicated to researching, producing and exhibiting work on the intersections of queer studies and social change.
Our programme supports artists to develop critical discourse, active research and experimental projects through major commissions and process driven participation projects. This work is presented through exhibitions, performance and live work, international touring projects and creative learning activities for young people.
Learning and research underpins all of our activities. We provide a unique context for artists and audiences to explore expanded ideas of community, identity and belonging, and play a sector leadership role in an international network of organisations foregrounding new approaches to artist-led institution building.
Auto Italia is situated in the heart of a diverse residential neighbourhood in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. We are active in facilitating local networks and partnerships that create new ways for audiences to engage with art, and which support children and young people to take active and empowered roles investigating contemporary issues on identity.
Auto Italia is supported by Arts Council England as a National Portfolio Organisation, and Tower Hamlets Council through the Local Community Fund.
Auto Italia was established in 2007 by a community of artists who were living, working and programming exhibitions from a squatted car garage in Peckham, South London. From the beginning there was an interest in exploring what it meant to collaborate, with a vision to bring artists and audiences together to investigate alternative forms of community practice.
During its first ten years, the gallery operated from a series of donated buildings across the city – including large-scale warehouses, industrial buildings and commercial units – using the sites to produce major commissions with a generation of early-career artists, activists and researchers who have gone onto become household names in art and academia.
Developed against the backdrop of government austerity, this programming foregrounded innovative new research on digital culture, group work, self-organisation and community activism. Its early collaborators included multi-award winning artists and researchers Ed Atkins, Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, Hannah Black, Frederico Campagna, Benedict Drew, Mark Fisher, Huw Lemmey, Yuri Pattison, Eddie Peake, Heather Phillipson, and others.
During this time, the organisation was led by an evolving community of collaborating artist-directors. This included Kate Cooper (Founding Co-Director 2007–16), Marleen Boschen (Co-Director 2014–16), Amanda Dennis (Founding Co-Director 2007–12), Marianne Forrest (Co-Director 2012–19), Deborah Joyce Holman (Associate Director 2020-22), Richard John Jones (Co-Director 2010–12), Rachel Pimm (Founding Co-Director 2007–08).
This daring experimental ethos continues to lead Auto Italia and its work today. Working in a dynamic international ecology of artists and organisations, the gallery has grown into an essential risk-taking platform, with a track record in foregrounding artists’ work that is deeply political in content and form. This programming has secured recognition as a bellwether for influential trends and ideas in contemporary art, and in fostering the early expansion and dissemination of radical ideas before they enter mainstream institutions.
Over the last five years, this has focused on producing headline new commissions by early-career artists exploring dissenting forms of subjectivity, and survey exhibitions by mid-career artists whose archives trace key conflicts within culture and society. This has included critically acclaimed projects with intergenerational artists including CFGNY, Elysia Crampton Chuquimia, Gran Fury, April Greiman, Invernomuto, Alexa Karolinski, Tarek Lakrissi, Metahaven, NTU (Nolan Oswald Dennis, Tabita Rezaire, Bogosi Sekhukhuni), Ingrid Pollard, Jill Posener, Terre Thaemlitz, Natasha Tontey, Sin Wai Kin, and others.
Work commissioned by Auto Italia has toured internationally to Cemeti Institute for Art and Society, Yogyakarta; Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève; Firstdraft, Sydney; Futura Centre for Contemporary Art, Prague; Hessel Museum, New York; Haus der Kunst, Munich; If I Can’t Dance, Amsterdam; KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna; Nubuke Foundation, Accra, Tate Modern and ICA, London; and others.
Milda Batakyte, Curator: Exhibitions and Events
Edward Gillman, Director
Rachel Routledge, Curator: Community and Engagement
Tze Yan Clara Wong, Project Assistant
Front of House Assistants: Bediah Al-Fadly, Sylke van der Heiden and Katherine Sung
BOARD OF TRUSTEES:
Amida Deen, Youth member
Bo Escritt (Vice Chair), Partner, Counterculture LLP
Sunil Gupta, Artist
Matthew Leitch (Treasurer), Group Financial Controller, VIA Outlets
Beatrice Pembroke, Executive Director of Culture, Kings College London
Eleanor Pinfield (Chair), Head of Art on the Underground, Transport for London
Ben Vickers, Technologist, writer and publisher
Previous trustees: Sarah Andrews, Khuroum Ali Bukhari, Cllr Kevin Brady, May Calil, Kate Cooper, Mary Cork, Amanda Dennis, Andrew Durbin, Benedict Drew, Ali Eisa, Cécile B Evans, Marianne Forrest, Amira Gad, Francesca Gavin, Lorna Gemmell (Chair), Katie Guggenheim, Lynn Hanna (Chair) and Kathy Noble.
We are committed to improving our project space so that it is as welcoming and comfortable as possible. The building comprises two gallery spaces. Access to the first exhibition space is step-free through a street facing entrance that is 90cm wide. There are two steps to enter the second exhibition space. This is supported with a temporary ramp that is 78cm wide. We have fully accessible toilets available on site.
We provide large-format versions of exhibition handouts in printed upon request. Please ask a member of staff on arrival. Exhibition texts are available in English.
We welcome further input as we seek to increase access to our work for all people. If you have encountered issues or would like to discuss accessibility before your visit, please contact info (at) autoitaliasoutheast.org.