From the House of Commons to the “Shop of Possibilities”:the best galleries and unmissable events on London's contemporary arts scene

The Museum of Empathy comes to Parliament and anyone interested in early 20th century photography must see Erwin Blumenfeld’s new exhibition “From Dada to Vogue” in Mayfair.  


Where better to make your mark than the House of Commons? The Museum of Empathy comes to Parliament on October 31 until November 4 showing off “A Mile in My Shoes”. Launched in 2015, the Empathy Museum is the first arts space that travels round the world in a box: it takes a form people recognise (a shop) and turns it into an experience. This version has been developed with the Health Foundation, and can be found in the Upper Waiting Hall, where you’ll be given someone else’s shoes and some headphones offering a description of their life. Find out more at Also keep an eye out for Arts Council chairman Sir Peter Bazalgette’s book The Empathy Instinct, How to Create a More Civil Society, due out in January.


Margot Heller, director of the South London Gallery in Camberwell (65-67 Peckham Road SE5) is one of the UK’s star curators. Her SLG exhibition programme is a model for bringing art into the community. This year the gallery has opened a sister venue in Peckham’s old fire station and its latest project sees famed Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco re-designing the garden at the back of the building.


It will be a permanent artspace, with York stone concentric circles, water features and seating areas for both “courting couples” and groups. The new garden also includes a walkway to and from the Sceaux Gardens housing estate, which the gallery has been working with in recent years. No member of the community is too young to be involved: the gallery has taken over a dilapidated former shop on the estate and renamed it “The Shop of Possibilities”; it’s an afterschool play area, where recycled and donated toys are used to encourage the artists of tomorrow. 


New galleries continue to open in the capital: first on our list to visit is the 5,000sq ft Skarstedt in St James’s (8 Bennet Street, SW1). After a major redevelopment of the space, the gallery has just opened with a museum-quality show of works by Cindy Sherman (pictured below) and David Salle. 


Untitled #213, 1989 ©Cindy Sherman

Architect Thomas Croft has brought a bit of New York to the space; the gallery echoes existing galleries in Chelsea (NY) and the Upper East Side. And on the opposite end of the spectrum off Baker Street (71 Blandford Street, W1), PayneShurvell offers a quieter, more contemplative view with modernist paintings of — yes — garage doors by Andrew Curtis. Co-director James Payne will chat with the artist and give a short introduction to the work on Wednesday October 26 at 6.30pm for Homes & Property readers. Afterwards you can book the set-price dinner at Carousel, the restaurant below the art gallery that presents a regularly changing programme of chefs from around the world. Email to reserve your place at the talk, dinner or both.


Also out this week is a brilliant book of quotations by artists for everyone. It includes life lessons, private revelations and frank thoughts on money, sex, failure, creativity and originality.


It takes its title from Gerhard Richter: “Art is the highest form of hope.” We can only add that art also brings us together. Or to quote Dorothea Tanning: “Art has always been the raft on to which we climb to save our sanity.” (Phaidon Editors, £14.95)


Erwin Blumenfeld’s new exhibition at Osborne Samuel in Mayfair, “From Dada to Vogue”, is a must for anyone interested in photography in the early 20th century (23A Bruton Street, W1).


As curator Lou Proud says: “It’s fascinating how someone who did everything possible to stretch, bend and break the existing boundaries of traditional photography managed to create works that reach far beyond what we could ever dream that photography would and could deliver.” Meanwhile, Blumenfeld’s daughter-in-law Helaine has her own sculpture show a mere five minutes’ walk away at the Hignell Gallery in Shepherd’s Market (12-14 Shepherd Street, W1).

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