Graffiti in the gallery: an Exhibition of Graffiti Art: Untold Stories - Unseen Realms in 1989

Graffiti in the gallery: an Exhibition of Graffiti Art: Untold Stories - Unseen Realms in 1989

In the 1980s and 1990s, local photographer Phil Polglaze captured hundreds of moments at the South London Art Gallery. The focus of his pictures was rarely the art on display but rather the people gathered in the main gallery.

Polglaze’s photographs, often taken on the occasion of a private view, were usually commissioned by Southwark Council or local newspaper the Southwark Sparrow. Always shot on black-and-white film, the images are revealing not only of past exhibitions at the South London Gallery but of the time in which they were taken. They are records of social as well as cultural history and the most fascinating aspects are often the clothes, the haircuts or seeing the way the gallery space was used. It comes as a surprise to see that people were allowed to smoke in the gallery.

These photographs also tell stories about the people who visited and exhibited here, including a young Tracey Emin, who submitted a work to the gallery’s 1991 centenary Open Exhibition.

Phil Polgalze has very kindly allowed the SLG to digitise his photographs of past exhibitions at the gallery. To see more than the selection here, please see our online archive catalogue.