The Clerk’s House is a new Shoreditch gallery space with a spooky past

The Clerk’s House in Shoreditch, London, becomes Emalin gallery’s exhibition space, showcasing contemporary works in a historic setting

The Clerk's House Shoreditch
(Image credit: Joseph Asghar. Courtesy of Giles Reid Architects.)

Perched beside St Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch, sits The Clerk’s House, now Emalin gallery’s second exhibition space in London. The oldest building in Shoreditch, set between a cemetery and a high street, has a rich history, including its use as a ‘watch house’ by those looking out for body snatchers in the 18th and 19th centuries. The property’s 118½ street number has been preserved since 1735, and now provides the name of Emalin's exhibition, which showcases works that explore ideas of home, shelter, value, and intimacy.

Exhibition '118½' on view now at Emalin’s The Clerk’s House

artwork detail inside The Clerk's House, Emalin Gallery

Ceidra Moon Murphy, Qualified Immunity, 2024, personal protection shields, mild steel 

(Image credit: Photography Stephen James. Courtesy of the artist, a. Squire, London, and Emalin, London)

The building could seem haunting to some, however it enthralled Emalin co-founders Angelina Volk and Leopold Thun, who tell Wallpaper*: ‘Emalin has a history of engaging with the history of buildings: our opening exhibition in 2016 by Augustas Serapinas [at the gallery's previous location on Bethnal Green Road.] was made with objects left over by a locksmith who previously occupied the space, and created in relation to the recently gentrified gay sauna around the corner from the gallery.

‘The Clerk’s House has been used intermittently by artists for decades, but no one ever committed to truly care for the historic building. So many old-school Londoners recognise it as a long-running mystery – and just today, we found a Fax-Bak press release critique of an exhibition that was held upstairs in 1998,’ they say (referring to the Fax-Bak Service art project by collective BANK, which comprised edited gallery press releases). 

‘The building has lived so many lives between the church, the cemetery, and the high street – it felt like a place that will allow artists to engage deeply with ideas that other locations don’t bring to the surface so immediately.’

Artwork of hanging corn on wall at Emalin Gallery 118½

Karol Palczak, Kukurydza w spiżarni, 2023, oil on aluminium fixed on plywood.  Courtesy of the artist and Emalin, London

(Image credit: Photography: Stephen James. Courtesy of the artist and Emalin, London)

Until 16 March 2024 at The Clerk’s House Emalin presents the contemporary works of Tolia Astakhishvili, Alvaro Barrington, Matt Browning, Laura Carralero Morales, Nicholas Cheveldave, Adriano Costa, Matias Faldbakken, Stanislava Kovalcikova, Ceidra Moon Murphy, Karol Palczak, Matthew Peers, Coumba Samba Vunkwan Tam, Sung Tieu, and Marina Xenofontos.

Artwork of wool woven on postcard

Alvaro Barrington, A Different World: Clerk's House 2, 2023, yarn on found postcard, variable wood fixture postcard: 13.5 x 8.5 cm (5 1/4 x 3 3/8 inches) wood dimensions variable

(Image credit: Photography: Steven James. Courtesy of the artist and Emalin, London)

The Clerk’s House’s history and the contemporary art make for a stark contrast. ‘The building has witnessed many changes and inversions that happened through the centuries – the location itself implies the dynamics of history, economics, urban transformations and the way people attach value to objects,’ say the co-founders. 

‘For an artist like Sung Tieu, whose work speaks of the implications of French colonial rule in Vietnam, the setting may make visitors realise the politics in their surroundings, in buildings from around the same time. But apart from the conceptual and political layer, there is also the intimacy of encounters with art: small rooms that bring us closer to the artworks, many doors and steps that slow down the process of taking in an exhibition.’

bronze object

Adriano Costa. The Pipe, Cemetery series, 2022 bronze cast from old sculpture mould

(Image credit: Photography: Stephen James. Courtesy of the artist and Emalin, London)

framed artwork on wall

Coumba Samba, Dust, 2024, c-type print, wood, acrylic paint frame: 39 x 31 cm (15 3/8 x 12 1/4 inches) wood, in four parts: 73 x 4 x 4 cm (28 3/4 x 1 5/8 x 1 5/8 inches) (SAMBC 2024001) 

(Image credit: Photography Steven James. Courtesy of the artist and Emalin, London)

mirror artwork

Marina Xenofontos, Plan d'Evacuation, 2022, MDF wood, print on Plexiglas, LED lights, Arduino board, reflective sensor 20 x 25 x 1.5 cm 7 7/8 x 9 7/8 x 5/8 inches (XENOM-2022001)

(Image credit: Photography Stephen James. Courtesy of the artist, Hot Wheels, Athens and London, and Emalin, London)

View the Emalin gallery exhibition at 118½ Shoreditch High Street until 16 March 2024

Tianna Williams is the Editorial Executive at Wallpaper*. Before joining the team in 2023, she has contributed to BBC Wales, Ford UK, SurfGirl Magazine, and Parisian Vibe, with work spanning from social media content creation to editorial. Now, her role covers writing across varying content pillars for Wallpaper*.