131 exhibitions, 35 book launches, 62 nationalities and 32,750 free beers: the last decade has seen a lot of exhibitions at the KK Outlet transcend into sweaty parties which spill out the doors at 42 Hoxton Square and onto the kerb outside. Now, ten years on, KK Outlet is shutting up shop at Hoxton Square (with a next site TBC later this year) but not before one final exhibition, All Our Friends. We asked Dave Bell, Kessels Kramer’s creative partner, to pick out his top 10 exhibitions to have coated the walls at the KK and he obliged, with a little help from Mr Bingo, Giles Duley, Anthony Burrill, Wilfrid Wood and Laura Callaghan.
Colette, Swap Shop, July 2010
For the first time since they opened in 1997, Parisian store Colette launched a UK pop up shop at KK Outlet (they’d been invited to do collaborations by the likes of Selfridges, but instead they chose little us). And in return, we popped up at their place – except we had way more space to play with so we arguably got the better end of the deal. They gave us a masterclass on how to run a well oiled and innovative store and we also saved a man from drowning in the Seine whilst we were there. Pretty successful all round.
Yuri Suzuki, Sound Interjection!, September 2010
For his show Sound Interjection! Yuri donned an orange boiler suit and set to work. He brought a jellyfish theremin (basically the instrument used by the Beach Boys but filled with water and jellyfish), a record cutting machine that allowed people to record straight onto vinyl, and our favourite, Sound Chaser – a train track style record play where users connect pieces of old records to make new tracks. We loved working with Yuri so much, that we enlisted him to help build a huge Jamaican sound system for us out of 10,000 Red Stripe cans.
The Lost Collection, TfL, April 2011
We worked with TFL on an exhibition made up of objects and art from their huge, cavernous lost property department underneath Baker Street. Every three months, lost items were sold if owners didn’t retrieve them, but art pieces were incinerated! We found this weird, especially since art is so personal. So for The Lost Collection we salvaged dozens of artworks to try and reunite people with their creations. It was quite touching to find the owners of many pieces, such as a photographer who had lost the portfolio containing photos of his father who had just died. We even had someone flying over from Barcelona to retrieve her work.
Giles Duley, Becoming the Story, November 2011
“My first show at KK Outlet came at a difficult time in my life. I was rebuilding my career after a serious accident, and with my confidence low, the idea of putting on a show – being laid bare — was intimidating. But I discovered KK Outlet was not like other galleries. It was a place devoid of the normal pretensions and bullshit, it was a place of laughter, warmth and support. I have no doubt KK Outlet played a big part in my recovery. KK Outlet was never like a gallery. It was like a family.” — Giles Duley
Anthony Burrill, Made in L.A., October 2012
“Every month a new exhibition happened, always something interesting to see and absorb. Photography, design, illustration, fashion and everything in between. It all lived in one constantly changing space, full of energy, experimentation and fun. A cultural clubhouse for an extended family of like-minded designers, writers, artists, photographers and people who wandered in looking for free drinks. It was a place where we were challenged, somewhere we could experience something new. A physical space that provided a tangible experience, a design blog made real. It was a meeting place, collaborations began there, friendships blossomed, beers were drunk and music was played.” — Anthony Burrill
Wilfrid Wood, Heads and Bodies, May 2013
“Having a solo show is my idea of hell but the calming KK team provided plinths, shelves, publicity, beers and a warm entrance.” — Wilfrid Wood
Mr. Bingo, Hate Mail, June 2013
What’s not to love about Bingo? He set up his studio in the gallery during the run of his exhibition and drew Hate Mail postcards that people had ordered so we got to hang out and gossip. The shows where the artists really put the extra effort in are always the most memorable and with Bingo that was definitely the case. In his own words, "I love KK outlet so much. When I submitted my design for their meeting room wallpaper containing a man shooting himself, a woman with three tits, a team throwing darts at their manager and people watching two tortoises fucking on a table, they said yes to everything and I have a lot of respect for them for that.”
Ewen Spencer, UKG, November 2013
Ewen DJed at our opening party and has been a friend of KK throughout. We’ve hosted three exhibitions/book launches with him but the most memorable was the launch of his UKG book when he brought along garage scene pioneers Scott Garcia & DJ Sticky to play. There were people with their tops off and sweat dripping off the ceiling. We think it was sweat, anyway.
The Public Prime Minister, May 2015
The best, most fulfilling shows were the ones where the neighbours turned up. The even better ones were those in which they appeared. The Public Prime Minister took place during the 2015 election when David Cameron sneaked his greasy way into office again. Pre-facing this, at a time when most people were turned off voting because they didn’t feel they had a voice, we turned the gallery into a week-long photo studio helmed by Dirk Rees whereby passers-by were asked to pose alongside their personal policy if they were Prime Minister. Suggestions included ‘no more sinister ministers’, ‘give more help to the NHS’ and ‘free puppies for all’. If only Cameron did as much.
Laura Callaghan, Aspirational, June 2016
“I have numerous fond memories of drinking beers on the street outside a KK Outlet private view waiting for the crowd to disperse a bit so we could see what was on the walls! It’s somewhere that has always felt accessible and fun rather than cold and stuffy as some small gallery spaces can. In 2016 I was invited to have my first solo exhibition Aspirational in the space. Having all those blank walls to fill was very daunting but they couldn’t have been nicer people to work with. Aspirational was the catalyst for lots of things happening in my career, the opening night was one of the first times I looked around at what I had made and had confidence in my own ideas. It led to numerous jobs and connections, so much so that almost two years later I’m now a freelance illustrator full time. The gallery has been a constant in Hoxton Square and will be sorely missed.” – Laura Callaghan
Lakwena Maciver, The Future’s Gold, July-August 2017
Having worked on such large scales with her murals we knew Lakwena would do something special but she brought life to every corner of the gallery. She lined the floor with gold flooring, created incredibly colourful life-affirming paintings and painted all of the walls with her signature graphics and geometric patterns. Shame that after one month we had to paint over it all again, ready for the next show.
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