DISCUSSING THE PERKS AND HIGHLIGHTS OF ONE OF LONDON’S BEST MEMBERS CLUBS:
The Arts Club has long been one of the most revered and fascinating places that London, one of the world’s capitals, has to offer. It was founded in 1863 by Charles Dickens and his friends as a haven for people connected with the Arts, Literature and Sciences, and it has grown tremendously since. In 1896, the Arts Club moved from its Hanover Square home to Mayfair’s Dover Street, and in 2011, it re-launched after a complete renovation.
The Arts Club once welcomed eminent writers such as Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and Thomas Hughes, legendary musicians Paolo Tosti, Charles Halle and Franz Liszt, artists Frederic Leighton, John Everett Millais, Auguste Rodin and James McNeill Whistler, alongside a throng of elite surgeons, solicitors and professionals – to name but a few, of course.
Today, tucked inside a splendid 18th century townhouse at 40 Dover Street, which graciously survived two World Wars – including a direct hit during the 1940 Blitz, The Arts Club continues to welcome Art, Literature and Science connoisseurs and practitioners, with a splendid variety of spaces and facilities.
A truly distinguished institution, The Arts Club consists of layer upon layer of sophisticated and welcoming rooms and venues – a 16-bedroom hotel designed by Sagrada and developed to the highest of hospitality standards, a Drawing Room and similar social spaces, a nightclub that hosts exclusive events and talks, a Cigar Room, and bars and restaurants that further amplify the Club’s indubitable appeal.
A key highlight remains The Arts Club’s art collection, which sheds light on international trends while also drawing focus to British-based artists. Ms Amelie von Wedel, the Club’s art advisor and curator, selected each piece to include a melange of site-specific installations and carefully considered acquisitions. The permanent collection holds work by Tomas Saraceno, John Baldessari and John Stezaker, which are exhibited alongside both the Arts Club’s historic collection and a series of temporary displays that change throughout the year.
We’ve had the pleasure to attend some of the events that took place at The Arts Club over the past few months, and we’ve concluded that a membership is a must for those who revel in the beauty, intensity and fascination of the Arts, Literature, Science and other related fields.
There were meaningful conversations with Yves Klein, Roger Hiorns, and Frances Morris – the new Director of Tate Modern, as part of the Tate Month at The Arts Club. We found ourselves entranced as critically acclaimed film producer Mike Figgis of Leaving Las Vegas fame had a heart-to-heart with legendary photographer Don McCullin.
We listened as art historian and National Gallery lecturer Siân Walters unravelled the dramatic mystique of “Beyond Caravaggio”, one of the most important art exhibitions of 2016. We enjoyed the vivid memoirs of David Montgomery, the photographer behind iconic portraits of Jimi Hendrix and Andy Warhol, among numerous other exquisite events.
And most recently, we also got to feast our eyes on a splendid survey of famed contemporary artist Frank Bowling, graciously displayed within The Arts Club’s Drawing Room, and got to hear more about the works and their author during a discussion with Zoe Whitley, Tate curator, and John Bunker, independent artist and writer.
To further develop our case on what it is that makes this place truly special, we spoke to Ms Aurore Ogden, Director of Art, regarding the perks of being an Arts Club member and future plans of the institution.
Coshamie: Which would you say were the three most successful Arts Club events that members were able to enjoy over the past 2-3 years?
“Don McCullin who was joined in conversation by legendary producer Mike Figgis. To think of Don as purely a war photographer would be extremely wide of the mark – the man is one of my heroes. The talk took place just before he was knighted – a very special evening all round,” says Ms Ogden.
“Cornelia Parker and Jonathan Watkins of Ikon Gallery in Birmingham – Cornelia is supremely talented and funny while Jonathan makes everyone feel so at ease thanks to his significant charm. They are also old friends which made for some excellent anecdotes!”
“Frances Morris and Wolfgang Tillmans. Slightly had to pinch myself that this one came off – as an Ambassador for the Tate Young Patrons I am an enormous admirer of Frances and the consistently inspiring work she has done at the Tate over the last twenty years. She and Wolfgang first collaborated 14 years ago, so they know each other extremely well – it made for a lively discussion.”
Coshamie: What do you consider to be the biggest benefit of becoming an Arts Club member?
“The events programme of course! My colleague and friend Susanna Warren does an incredible job with the musical side of things – The Temptations and Groove Armada in one season is quite something – between us we try to cover as many cultural bases as possible,” says Ms Ogden.
“My main objective with the art events programme is to present a diverse range of topics and speakers – whether a conversation with curatorial giants like Hans Ulrich Obrist and Zoe Whitley, cutting edge contemporary artists like Oscar Murillo and Eddie Peake or a breakfast discussion on mediaeval manuscripts and how and why this area of collecting is enjoying a real renaissance – the primary goals are quality and variety.”
“Working at The Arts Club with cultural traditions dating back to 1863, means running a robust arts programme worthy of those traditions, and I strive to step up to the plate! The food and wine are also out of this world… What better way to spend an evening than listening to an interesting talk, having a fabulous dinner and then dancing the night away in our nightclub downstairs – at all times surrounded by beautiful artworks!”
Coshamie: Is there an upcoming event or project for Arts Club members this year that you’re really excited about – one that would be considered a highlight of the year?
“I would have to say our Women in the Arts panel on February 23rd with Maria Baibakova, of the New Museum’s Artemis Council, Martina Batovic of Dorotheum and Brett Rogers of the Photographers’ Gallery with Kate Bryan of Sky Arts moderating,” says Ms Ogden.
“There seems to be a real appetite for this sort of discussion right now – between the launch of AWITA – The Association of Women in the Arts – on whose Executive Committee I proudly sit – and current exhibitions like Guerilla Girls at Whitechapel Gallery, the timing felt right.”
“We will be tackling how far we have (or have not) progressed towards equality in the arts. There are still significant pay gaps between men and women leading non-profit institutions and women artists still get far fewer solo shows in major museums than their male counterparts. Hopefully, our panel can help shed some light on how to redress the balance.”
With an advisory board comprising of distinguished figures such as Sir Peter Blake CBE – President of the Arts Club, David Adjaye OBE, Matthew Bourne OBE, Carol Ann Duffy CBE FRSL, Gwyneth Paltrow Martin, Lord Sugar of Clapton, Sir David Tang KBE, Darcey Bussell CBE and Stella McCartney, among others, the Arts Club continues to be a hub of creativity and entrepreneurship.
Current member interests revolve around art, architecture, fashion, film, literature, music, performance, photography, science, theatre and media. Reclaiming its place at the heart of contemporary cultural life in London, The Arts Club continues to draw upon its ethos and champion ahead for a better world, where the arts and science make room for progress and healthy expression.
It’s not often that we choose to endorse a members’ club anywhere in the world, but our personal and professional experiences have demanded that we share some valuable insight on The Arts Club and the immeasurable benefits of their events and artistic programmes, which are included in the Club membership. Not to mention, the cocktails are simply spectacular.
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