The subject of memory is a mammoth theme to choose as the guiding principle of an exhibition, and it is only a gallery the scale of White Cube who could rise to the challenge of tackling its many-layered concerns. From collective memory and trauma to the diaristic impulse of the autobiography, Memory Palace brings together the work of more than forty artists, exhibited across both its London spaces. It is an appropriate moment for the gallery to look back, as it celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary this year. Founded by Jay Jopling in 1993, its history is closely associated with the ascendancy of the YBAs, several of whom remain with the gallery and are included in this latest show.
Tracey Emin presents a nude self-portrait, scrawled in a deep, dark red, a work that exemplifies her candid approach to personal disclosure and intimate emotion. In another room at the expansive Bermondsey gallery space, a stack of 900 bars of pastel-coloured soap are strung up between floor and ceiling. Miroslaw Balka distributed them amongst the gallery staff with instructions to wash with them daily until they had been moulded to new forms, shrunken with use. Here, the traces that we leave behind remain in a physical impression. Collaged and stencilled paintings by Magnus Plessen explore historical recollection, responding to the horrors of war with reflective works that confront mutilated and dislocated bodies.
Memory Palace brings together an impressive range of artists from the gallery, including Mona Hatoum, Michael Armitage, Antony Gormley, Gilbert & George, Cerith Wyn Evans, Eddie Peake and Beatriz Milhazes. Each makes clear that the act of remembering is closely tied to the visual cues that we encounter on a daily basis, whether a sentimental object at home, a familiar street or an evocative artwork. Each reveals collective and cultural histories, as well as sparking individual connections between people and place. Memory, both personal and political, inevitably shapes our outlook and the world around us.