Battersea power station opens doors to become art gallery

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Its four chimneys provide one of the boldest landmarks on the London skyline and its industrial ugliness was made iconic when it appeared on a Pink Floyd album cover in 1977. Now, Battersea Power Station has invited the public to judge it not on its exterior but to have a look inside.

The power station in south London has reinvented itself as a centre for the arts as it opens its doors to visitors for the first time in its 67-year history.

While the crumbling, disused power station is in the process of redevelopment, its interior has been adapted to accommodate a contemporary Chinese art exhibition organised by the Serpentine Gallery, entitled China Power Station: Part 1.

From tomorrow, visitors will encounter an intriguing sound installation as they walk into the main room, Turbine Hall B - or cycle in on rented bikes available on site. The piece features among a series of large-scale videos and installations on three floors of the building to showcase some of China's leading artists.

Julia Peyton-Jones, director of the Serpentine Gallery and co-curator of the exhibition, said the "glorious ruin" of a site provided the perfect space to exhibit the works, including a top-floor installation comprising a wall of apples across the length of the building. She added that this was the first of many off-site exhibition projects.

Visitors will be led by guides into the station, where they can view the art amid gaping, roofless spaces, crumbling walls and rusting metalwork. The work is displayed in long, dark rooms in what used to be turbine halls, including a film installation by the independent film director Jia Zhang-Ke, winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, which depicts everyday life for ordinary Chinese people.

Another work on the same floor by Zhang Pei Li evokes the propaganda films of Communist China, while a third is a carefully choreographed martial arts fight.

On the next of three exhibition levels, Cao Fei's video Whose Utopia? explores the automation of Chinese society by filming the seemingly endless repetition of machines and workers in a light bulb plant.

The renovation of the power station, expected to cost £1.5bn, is due to start next year. The abandoned area will be turned into apartments, shops and hotels as well as a cultural centre.