Friday, November 20, 2009

Posh Bird looks at some art

There are, of course, quite a few posh art galleries in London. I'm not thinking so much of grand institutions such as the National and the Royal Academy, wonderful as they are. But more of those tiny galleries dotted about St James's, overhung with Victorian illustrations or watercolours of Venice. They are usually manned by either a smart young gel trying to break into the art world, who has had this job forced upon her by a well-meaning godparent. Or they are presided over by a man in a tweed jacket and egg-stained tie who secretly longs to be either an academic or a roue with a loftspace in New York, where he would gain success as the eccentric Englishman with an amazing talent for spotting emerging artists. They certainly didn't imagine they'd end their days trying to make the sale of three paintings to Japanese tourists pay for six months' rent.

But now for something completely different...Those who fancy good art in a posh setting can hotfoot it to the Hempel Hotel in Craven Hill Gardens. Rather an odd hotel this - it was fiercely modern when it was done up by the formidable Lady Hempel in the 80s but now it's white walls and Zen-ish stone water effects look rather dated. Still, it has a gorgeous garden and now a gallery in the basement. Previously incarnated as the restaurant, with a highly polished granite floor, it is - as curators say - a great space. Last night was the opening of its second exhibition, the UK debut of Irish artist Conrad Frankel. He has done oil paintings of antique photographs of children and adults in their Sunday best (aspirational posh?), in which the sitters stare out at the observer with a rather creepy, intense manner (the result of having to be still for four or five seconds while the picture was taken). The result is intriguing. If you go, you can have a decent cocktail in the bar upstairs, which is a definite improvement on the vast majority of London's galleries.

See more here: Art Work Space at the Hempel

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