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The Redchurch St Rake’s Progress

June 17, 2011
by the gentle author

Like it or not, Redchurch St has become the street in London that is the focus of all that is fashionable and happening, just as Carnaby St and the Kings Rd were in the sixties. When artist Adam Dant first came to Redchurch St in the nineteen nineties he remembers it as mostly printers, button makers and other light-industry, but now it is the white-hot hangout for those who are young and have money to throw around in the bars and boutiques. Inspired by this unlikely and sudden transformation from utilitarian to hedonistic, Adam Dant chose the crossroads where Redchurch St meets Club Row as the terrain for his panorama of “British Drinking” in the manner of Pieter Breughel’s social landscapes – only rather than Flemish proverbs, Adam Dant has illustrated English figures of speech for drunkenness to create an sprawling epic of bacchanalia. (You can click on this and the other plates here to enlarge and study them in detail.)

Something extraordinary happens when so much cultural attention is paid to a single street, it becomes a theatre where people need to perform, carrying an invisible sign above their heads that says “Look at me, I’m on Redchurch St.” A phenomenon that you can witness any day of the week, simply by walking along Redchurch St and observing all the people trying very hard to be unselfconscious. The recent music video for R.E.M. shot by Sam Taylor-Wood and featuring her fiancée Aaron Johnson dancing down Redchurch St, manifests the apogee of this bizarre circumstance – and which also, by an extraordinary fluke of chance, features Adam Dant – who is a resident of Redchurch St – in a fleeting appearance walking his dog Edwin in the background.

As the definitive chronicler of the social change that has come upon this corner of Shoreditch, Adam Dant created a “Redchurch St Rake’s Progress” in the manner of William Hogarth – in which a Rake inherits and loses a fortune upon a single block on Redchurch St. Setting each of the eight intricate tableaux outside buildings on the South side of the street, the series follows the fortunes of the Rake from  flourishing his credit card on the corner of Club Row to ending up naked in the gutter at the corner of Chance St. If you have visited Redchurch St on one of the “First Thursdays” recently, when all the galleries have openings and give away free beers, and everyone wanders up and down, enjoying the party, you may recognise the scenes of revelry and rumpus illustrated here.

The young Rake takes possession of his wealth at the corner of Club Row and Redchurch St.

The Levee – the Rake surrounded by artists and hangers-on outside Lounge Lover.

The Rake enjoys an orgy on the pavement outside Watson Bros gunmakers.

The Young Rake is arrested for debt – confronted with his tab outside Museum 52.

The Marriage – outside “The Gallery in Redchurch St.”

The Gaming House – The Rake loses his fortune outside forty-eight Redchurch St.

In the Debtor’s Prison – The Rake and his possessions are thrown into the street outside the Outside World Gallery.

The Madhouse  - Final depravity, the Rake is abandoned at the corner of Redchurch St & Chance St.

Pictures copyright © Adam Dant

Just as Hogarth featured his pug in the Rake’s Progress, Adam Dant’s dog Edwin can be seen in the right hand corner of the picture above. Can you spot Adam and his dog in the background of the Sam Taylor-Wood music video for R.E.M. featuring Aaron Johnson dancing down Redchurch St? Click here to watch it and here to watch a parody.

The original drawings of Adam Dant’s ”Redchurch St Rake’s Progress” will be on display for Spitalfields Life readers from today and over this weekend at Hales Gallery in the Tea Building in the Bethnal Green Rd – just ask to see them.

You may also like to take a look at

Adam Dant’s  Map of the History of Clerkenwell

or his Map of the History of Shoreditch,

or his Map of Shoreditch in the Year 3000,

or his Map of Shoreditch as New York,

or his Map of Shoreditch as the Globe,

or his Map of Shoreditch in Dreams.

And these other Redchurch St stories

The Labour & Wait Brush Museum

The Return of Ben Eine

King Sour DA MC, Rapper of Bethnal Green

Roa, the Squirrel & the Rat

4 Responses leave one →
  1. June 17, 2011

    What a feast for the eyes! Dant truly is our latter-day Hogarth.

    I particularly love all the bare bottoms and the triumvirate of urban reynards pulling at the drunkard’s flesh!

    Dant’s Inferno!

  2. June 17, 2011

    There is so much to see.
    What is the classical painting (a Bacchanal?) in the the Gallery window in the Marriage vignette?
    A great knowing nod to Brueghal too I think..

  3. June 19, 2011

    Awesome series of drawings that brilliantly capture the lewd underbelly of one of London’s most vibrant streets. I especially like the strong sense of the architectural vertical – it’s as much about the upper stories as it is about the street life of Redchurch St – leering spectators looking on at the vertiginous fall from high life to low life.

  4. Tessa permalink
    July 29, 2011

    Beautiful drawings, too big a feast for the eyes at one sitting.

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