From the Archive: Surrey Docks Studios

A little known piece of historical information about Goldsmiths is that before London’s Surrey Docks were revitalised into the towering Surrey Quays, the college ran a space for its Fine Art students in a disused Dock Office. The building was loaned to Goldsmiths in the 1970’s and 80’s. Michael Craig-Martin, a former member of Goldsmiths teaching staff and highly influential artist in his own right, makes reference to the usage of the studios in this interview, describing the importance of the availability of spaces such as these as being essential for Goldsmiths to allow its art students to develop their creative identity in a relaxed space. As Craig-Martin himself claims: “[we were] kind of left alone, which seemed to be important.”

Exterior of Surrey Dock studios. From Wikipedia.

Much is made of  Craig-Martins influence on the students that formed the cluster of famous Goldsmiths Fine Art Alumni such as Damien Hirst and Angus Fairhurst (1966-2008), that would eventually become known as the YBAs (Young British Artists). Famously, whilst Hirst was in his second year of study at Goldsmiths, he would organise and feature in the massively influential Freeze show that would announce the arrival of Hirst and the other formative YBAs onto the art scene with much clamour and irreverence. Not to downplay Hirst’s own ingenuity and precociousness in organising such an important event, but the assistance of Craig-Martin and other Goldsmiths academic staff aided Hirst in finding such a fantastic venue as the Surrey Docks studios in order to debut his conceptual vision. The image below offers a glimpse of the interior of the exhibition, demonstrating how much the Surrey Docks studios had to offer as a space for innovative young talent in the art world.

Freeze exhibition in construction. From Damien Hirsts personal website.

For those interested in the works exhibited in Freeze, Special Collections and Archives hold copies of the exhibition catalogue. We are also pleased to house the Angus Fairhurst Collection, a collection of books that showcases the late artists influences and other interesting details about his life. Contact us at or alternatively call on +44(0)20 7717 2295 to find out more.


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