Having climbed up a staircase with papers flying up the walls, like playing cards from Alice in Wonderland, you open the door of the bedroom to find black birds flying round the room trying to escape. You try another room to find a large black hairy animal, which could be from another planet, waiting patiently on the bed, its hair stretched all across the bedcover. Is it friend or foe?
Along the corridor, you see a “Union Jack” doormat with a pair of Converse trainers, inviting you in to experience Brexit. Tiptoeing inside, you find a dead man in the bed, with one half of his face having no skin, and graffiti covering the walls and bedcover, some perhaps written in blood, some being positive and some being negative – reflecting the reality of Brexit. In another room, you find a drawing machine on the bed with the pens running backwards and forwards creating geometric patterns that are displayed on the walls and furniture. You then enter a room where everything is covered in white netting as if the owner has gone away, perhaps even died, and the room has been closed up, the furniture protected, draining away all the colour to allow the full impact of the black and white photographs to shine through. In other rooms, quite the opposite is occurring with coloured fabrics and painting covering every surface, drawing you into imaginary worlds, while peeping through the door of another room, you find the crystallised head of a woman coming out from the bathroom to meet you.
You continue your journey. You find jewellery and art made of beetles; ceramics in the shape of coral, beautiful delicate silverware and a room filled entirely of sculptural mounds of over half a million hand-cut cardboard shapes. Continuing along the corridors, guarded by Franco Nonnis’ artistic and silent manikins, you find rooms with beds upturned, rooms with beds folded together and, everywhere, beds, furniture and walls awash with paintings, photographs, digital art, sculptures, jewellery and other art treasures.
The Melia White House Hotel in London built in 1936 is austere on the outside; internally it combines historic style with classic hotel contemporary design. Last weekend, it was home to ArtRooms 2017, where over 70 artists from all around the world took over the five corridors of bedrooms.
As with last year, it is fascinating to see how different artists add their own touches to the repetitive bedrooms and en-suite bathrooms, furniture and the furnishings, adding new features, display stands and lighting to create rooms that are radically different from each other and often themselves become part of the show. Some of the artists also made good use of the televisions in the rooms as part of their installations.
The artists were selected by competition are supplemented by invited artists, art projects and art from Korea from the Le Dome Art Gallery. The bedrooms are not just full of art; the artists are there to enthusiastically explain their work, which makes the fair doubly interesting.
Again a worthwhile and unique event, that it becoming a regular in London’s art calendar, with the slight disappointment that on the Monday morning some of the rooms were closed, the artists perhaps having partied too late the night before or gone home. The value to the artist of the fair can be immense: Neil Shirreff from the 2016 ArtRooms, for example, was on show at the Contini Art UK Gallery in Mayfair and is currently included in the Winter Lights Festival across Canary Wharf.