All hail Ingrid Swenson, who last week (1 November) celebrated 20 years as the pioneering founder-director of Peer, the small East London organisation that has huge clout locally, nationally and internationally. In the words of Nicholas Serota, the former Tate Director and now Arts Council chair, Peer “consistently surprises by creating opportunities for artists to produce exceptional work in unexpected circumstances”.
This work has included Chris Ofili’s permanently installed Black Hands (2016) clock situated outside Peer’s Hoxton Street premises, Yuko Shiraishi’s 70m long painting alongside Regent’s Canal, Anthony McCall’s lightworks in a Clapton chapel, a massive installation by Mike Nelson on the Giudecca in Venice in 2001—ten years before he represented Britain at the Venice Biennale—and Fiona Banner working with Magnum photographer Paolo Pellegrin to create a film and video installation that viewed the City of London as a conflict zone.
Speaking to the crowd of supporters gathered to toast her two decades, Swenson described her approach to running Peer as “ducking and diving, making partnerships wherever I can, both within and outside the art community”. She attributed the survival and growth of her organisation to “a succession of leaps of faith, both mine and the artists, who have so graciously accepted the invitation to work with me”.
Many of the latter were in evidence at the packed event, including Mark Wallinger, John Smith, Jeff McMillan, Phyllida Barlow and Simon English. Also present were Cornelia Parker and John Stezaker, who may not have shown with Peer but were marking their support for the institution and Swenson’s tenure as director—as well as paying tribute to her recent MBE for services to the arts in East London—by each producing a special limitededition print, with the proceeds going to support Peer’s artistic and local programmes. Here’s to Peer’s next 20 years and beyond!