Monday, October 15, 2012
I spent last week immersed in art. From the Frieze Art Fair to the Serpentine Gallery and the Tates—yes, both of them—I looked at more art in three days’ time than I have ever seen in my entire life. And it wasn’t just traditional art, either. Every aspect of those three days was a careful work of art or design.
Let’s start with my arrival at the Le Meridien Piccadilly hotel in London: the lobby featured its own video art, bespoke key card art, and signature scent. The elevator played a special soundtrack designed just for the hotel. My room even had a sleek metal map of London on one wall and a painting on the bathroom mirror.
All this was the work of the LM100, a group of artists Le Meridien commissions to create various art and design elements for its properties.
But it didn’t end there. No, my favorite of the five senses had yet to be indulged: taste. It was in the Starwood Preferred Guest lounge that we were treated to a very unique afternoon tea at Le Meridien.
The traditional tea tray was furnished, but instead of tea, we drank G&Tea. A tonic reduction teapot allowed us to mix as much as we wanted with one of a variety of infused gins. I chose Sloane’s with vanilla and chili, and it went down a treat.
That’s to say nothing of the dinner that night, which was a five-course extravaganza with a cocktail pairing for each dish. From Carlingford rock oysters with a beautiful Asian Twist Bloody Mary to thin strips of pork belly with with a Maple Leaf Fizz, it was one of the most artistic meals I’ve had in a long time.
But it wasn’t all indulgence. No, there was a learning element as well. Le Meridien supports the Outset/Frieze Art Fair Fund to Benefit the Tate Collection (OFT), which purchases the work of emerging artists from Frieze each year for the national collection at the Tate.
As part of the 10-year anniversary of both the Frieze and the OFT, the hotel hosted a talk called “Does Size Matter? Growth and Sustainability in Contemporary Art”. Moderated by Jerome Sans, Le Meridien’s Cultural Curator, the panel featured an impressive lineup from the likes of the Serpentine Gallery, the Gagosian Gallery, the Tate, and the Frieze.
Afterwards, successively, over the course of the next few days, we made our way to every one of the panelists’ places of work. First we enjoyed a private tour of the Serpentine Gallery and its current exhibition, Thomas Schutte: Faces and Figures, which featured stunning sculptures and photography.
After basking in the autumn sunshine in the summer pavilion outside, we made our way to the Frieze Art Fair. There we not only saw the Gagosian Gallery’s stall, but also those of many of its world-renowned counterparts.
The following day we found ourselves at the Tate Britain at 8am for a private tour of the Turner Prize exhibition. This year’s four nominees work across a range of media from graphite-and-paper to video and performance art. I felt particularly moved by Elizabeth Price’s film of a fire in Manchester set against both church architecture and dance movements, but will have to wait until December 3rd to learn whether she wins the coveted prize.
After the tour, we attended a special reception for the announcement of the four works that OFT purchased from the Frieze for the Tate collection. They included Hideko Fukushima’s Ko 8, Nicholas Hlobo’s Balindile, Caragh Thuring’s Arthur Kennedy, and Jack Whitten’s Epsilon Group II.
Afterwards we were whisked off down the Thames on the Tate-to-Tate boat, which took us to the South Bank for a trip to the Tate Modern. There we had a guided tour of some of the 83 previous OFT acquisitions.
These ranged from Thomas Hirschhorn’s Candelabra with Heads—a large sculpture with tape-wrapped bodies—to Pawel Althamer’s FGF, Warsaw, which represented the interior of a room.
With all of the walking around museums and galleries, I worked up an appetite and a desire to rest my feet. Both of these needs were met one night in the form of the OFT’s 10-year anniversary dinner at the Royal College of Art’s new Dyson Building in Battersea.
After a Champagne reception and some speeches celebrating the fund and its work, we moved into a dining room that could have only been designed by artists. Small rooms filled with tables laid out in jigsaw patterns sat under low lights and high ceilings.
As we took in the ambiance, students served an artistic meal featuring everything from flower-laden salads to beautifully presented vegetable dishes. At the end there was a carnivalesque ice cream van serving dessert.
It was a surreal end to a surreal three days. Being surrounded by art and design was both inspirational and thought-provoking, not to mention fulfilling for both my mind and my stomach. As I checked out of my hotel room at the end of my stay, I was satisfied with my experience, and those of all five of my senses.