Dover Street, running up into Grafton Street, in Mayfair is characterised by its series of Georgian town houses, hotels and clubs, many of which now are home to art galleries, though inevitably some modern buildings have sneaked in. In the centre of the street, No 39 is an undistinguished modern building which is better viewed from inside than out. With great views from the first floor looking down Stafford Street, it is now the home of Gazelli Art House. No 38’s large street-level windows lead into the showroom for Erco Lighting, with a discrete black door at the side allowing visitors to discover a surprising Art Deco staircase to the upper floors, while the elegant and recently restored Ely House, originally the London home of the Bishop is Ely spans across to Berkeley Street as the London base for Galeries Thaddaeus Ropac. Next door, No 36 has perhaps the most modern stylish interior in the street (if not the whole of Mayfair) designed by Farshid Moussavi as the London showroom for Victoria Beckham’s fashion business and even made it into the pages of the RIBA Journal.
For the early summer celebration of art with London Art Week and Mayfair Art Weekend, Italian gallery Robilant+Voena has created two very different exhibitions, one, in conjunction with Burzio, focussed on the 18th and 19th centuries around the theme of the Kingdom of The Two Sicilies, (the two kingdoms being Sicily and Naples), the largest kingdom in Italy before it was merged into the new Kingdom of Italy in 1861.
Here, up the Art Deco staircase, in neoclassical rooms on the first floor are art, furniture and decorative items from the period, including beautiful paintings by Mattia Pretti and Salvator Rosa and the Marcello Papiniano Cusani silver chandeliers from 1758, with a subtle twist of modernism in two of Albero Burri’s ‘Cretti’ from 1971 behind 18th century vases with shell and coral, perhaps hinting of what is awaiting to be discovered further down the street.
Then to Victoria Beckham’s splendid showroom where, reflected in the mirrors and interspersed between the racks of clothes, are modernist Italian paintings and sculptures by artists such as Lucio Fontana (said to be one of VB’s favourites), Agostino Bonalumi Paulo Scheggi and Pietro Consagra. Perhaps this is a way to give the ever-threatened physical retail environment a new lease of life, with a win win for both organisations?
The timing links, not only with the art events in Mayfair and St James’s, but also with important auctions of classical art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s and Masterpiece in Chelsea, making it even more enticing for international art visitors to come and linger in London, with the London art market facing competition not only from traditional places like New York, but also the Far East.