I have walked past the former Manor Place Baths building in Walworth many many times over the years. A fabulous red brick building, it really stands out. Sadly, the building currently stands empty and locked up, but for the past couple of weeks part of the building has been open to display an art exhibition, scenes of inclination – the perfect opportunity to see inside and to get a culture fix.
About Manor Place Baths
Opened in 1898, it served the local community for swimming, bathing and laundry as well as operating as a sports facility, primarily for boxing, but closed to the public in 1978. In 1996 the building was given grade-II listed status whilst also being put on the heritage at risk register. It has had various uses since its closure, but in 2013 it was sold, alongside other buildings in the area, for development into residential and commercial space.
While much of the area has already been redeveloped, this building still stands as was. Like many vacant buildings, it is protected by guardians, in this case by Art Guard. Art Guard provide a solution for property owners who wish to see their vacant assets provide positive social impact whilst giving artists the opportunity to live and work affordably in London while developing work.
About scenes of inclination
A group show, scenes of inclination presents newly-produced and unseen works of 13 artists:
“The exhibition presents feminist and queer sculptural interventions questioning standing as a state in the current post-graduate, (post) pandemic, post-Brexit environment in which the artists find themselves.
“The title of the exhibition derives from the Italian philosopher and feminist Adriana Cavarero, who proposes inclination as an act of resistance against the dominant, patriarchal, and vertical order.“
– Akis Kokkinos, Curator
Including themes of human fragility, death and austerity, it was clear that this exhibition, and the works included, was created with this building in mind – especially as, I assume, at least some of the artists are living and / or working in the building. It was the perfect backdrop for work that looks at a period of change and transition in which we find ourselves.
Walworth itself is currently under a period of extreme change. In the 10+ years that I’ve lived in the area, I’ve seen the destruction and redevelopment of the Heygate Estate, the Aylesbury Estate and, most recently, the Elephant and Castle shopping centre and the Coronet Theatre. All happening under the guise of regeneration, it is a clear sign of gentrification. A building currently being protected by and housing working artists will soon become unaffordable to not only them but many locals. The uncertainty for many, including artists and the cultural sector more broadly, makes me wonder what this vibrant, creative and artistic city will soon become.
Click through the gallery above for photos from the exhibition. More photos of the building are in this Flickr album.