As head of programming for Frieze Academy and the former arts and lifestyle director for Porter Magazine, Jo Craven enjoys a feast for the eyes. She takes us with her on a wander through the eye-catching art collection here at Corinthia London, while pondering the relationship between art and food.
Art and food have been the most perfect soulmates for millennia, just picture Greek vases with their Bacchanalian scenes, or recall the mythical tale of Picasso paying for his supper with napkin sketches. Mark Rothko was commissioned to paint his famous Seagram murals for a restaurant, and it wasn’t that long ago that Damien Hirst opened his restaurant Pharmacy bursting with his own pieces. Many restauranteurs have embraced art and therefore transformed the eating experience. After all, a well-dressed wall can add a whole new layer of experience to the food you eat – feeding guests in an unusual way.
It is this context that feeds into chef Tom Kerridge’s vision, through his very personal connection with the art in his restaurant Kerridge’s Bar & Grill within Corinthia London. His connection with art is intimate and personal, partly because Kerridge is married to sculptor Beth Cullen-Kerridge. It is one of her two works that shines as the centrepiece in Kerridge’s – an ethereal bronze suite – without a body within, that holds court over the subtly-lit room. It is a thought- provoking scene-stealer. It is also a symbolic reminder that in London, the suit is a uniform behind which multitudes of identities reside.
Appropriately, each wall hosts a broad spectrum of work and becomes a celebration of British artists, curated by West Contemporary, from marble maquettes by Beth to a vast collage by Robi Walters, whose special ingredient is hundreds of discarded restaurant menus reinterpreted as a stunning visual based on the MOD logo. (The menus were sent following a social media request by Tom). As Kerridge puts it: ‘eating is something that creates memories’ and by stimulating all the senses, the visual as much as taste, the memories are inevitably stronger.
All too often in restaurants it is the smartphone camera that eats first when a plate of food is placed on a table, as social media inserts itself into the pleasure dynamic. This may not please everyone, but it can’t be ignored, and it does reinforce the point that aesthetic appreciation is wrapped into the experience. Most of all it reminds us, at the risk of sounding corny, how a picture speaks a thousand words.
Curating art in hotels is an art form in itself, and a challenging one at that – when it works it can be both transformative and have the power to tell a story. A journey through the many different spaces of Corinthia London, travelling from one art work to another, is made easy by the curation’s deliberate yet subtle gear shifts.
Bassoon cocktail bar is hung with William H. Johnson’s primitively painted, jazz-inspired prints; an artist whose work only posthumously received attention. This leads into a corridor for Bea Last’s vast elemental monochrome canvases, before entering the foyer for Claire Brewster’s three-dimensional installation ‘The Birds are Coming’ situated next to the pianist. This seems the perfect position for this ephemeral contemplation of nature, where each bird is cut from Phillips’ 1920s ABC Pocket Atlas of London and they appear to be fluttering gently within the frame. Not to mention the sculptures positioned in focal points, such as Simon Allen’s glowing rippled silver ‘Dancer’.
The pace is ever-changing as one moves from art work to art work, and cumulatively a strong personality is portrayed, of a broad perspective, where there’s enthusiasm for so much diverse, stunning art pieces. Just like Tom Kerridge using art to complement the food he brings to the table, the art collection throughout the hotel creates a vital narrative, bringing energy to the experience of being here, at the heart it makes you want to linger, consider for longer, and return for more.
Jo Craven has worked across the cultural landscape for 15 years as Features Editor for Vogue, Arts & Lifestyle Director for Porter magazine and most recently curating cultural events as Head of Programming for Frieze Academy. She consults on content strategy, from editorial to events, across the arts.