Just imagine checking into a luxurious art deco hotel and entering your bedroom to find grass on the floor, old medicine bottles on the bed, a women hanging on the wall of the bathroom or strange men in the bed and under it, and paintings covering every surface of the bedroom (including the bed).
This is ARTROOMS 2016, a three day event where over 80 artists from 33 countries take over the corridors and 70 bedrooms of a floor of the Melia White House in Regent’s Park, London, as individual spaces in which to show their work, as opposed to the traditional art fair populated by galleries.
A call to artists had around 1000 responses, such was the interest in this project where artists have a unique opportunity to engage with visitors and explain their work.
Hints of what is to come are provided on the staircase decorated by Holly Wilson, the lift lobby guarded by Egor Zigura’s sculptures and the corridor walls hung with works by artists in adjacent rooms, with the corridor wings themed to different parts of the world.
The best artists have responded to the 4-star décor of the bedrooms and, in some cases, even using the bathrooms as part of the gallery space. Many have created something unique for the event such as Rosalind Lemoh’s glasswork and medicine bottles, Jake Francis’s installations including the legs and feet of a man protruding from the bed. Is he pretending he isn’t there like the man in the bed covering his face with a book or is he dead? In Jack MacLean’s New Zealand-focused room the floor texture suddenly changes to artificial grass and he provides a bedcover for visitors to add their own views to the sea around New Zealand, while Jaycoe’s work draws attention to human trafficking, ironically where hotels sometimes are used to trap women into slavery. Teresa Wells’ sculptural figures sit on the bed and dine on a very long and very high table in the bedroom.
Other artists use the décor to show their work – Andrea Sampaolo with his bold paintings, Lili Mascio with her intricate photographic mosaics, Ernesto Heen showing both his old work and, on the walls, his new work as he changes direction and Alice Padovana with her drawings and vials of hair represents the history of someone’s life – perhaps they stayed here at some time? In contrast, Neil Shirreff blackens the room for his light-changing photographs.
There is a diverse range of work including painting, drawing, digital art, sculpture and installations. ARTROOMS deserves to be an annual event in London and it needs to stay at roughly the same number of rooms or it will become too large, while, as this year, it can be supplemented with other events and invited commissions. A small point, but in this technological age, more could be made of the website, with links to the sites of individual artists or a snapshot of their work as an aide-memoire and the list of artists provided in room order.