Back at Jumeirah’s Grosvenor House Apartments, yes hot to foxtrot in Mayfair, General Manager Astrid Bray introduces WW1 Centenary Works the latest exhibition of artist in residence Mark Humphrey. Fires roar casting dancing shadows across the charcoal grey and burnt amber upholstery of the atrium. “I first came across Mark Humphrey’s work at the new St James Theatre,” Astrid announces. “There was this amazing marble staircase. It blew me away! I said I’d really like to meet whoever designed it. A few phone calls later, a Christmas tree commission followed, and two years later Mark is still our exciting artist in residence!” After several of Grosvenor’s trademark cheese and asparagus cones are consumed, South Ken bound it is, as the theme of art, hotels and a Lake Wobegon High reunion takes over.
The Exhibitionist Hotel, London’s latest, may be a pair of twin four storey early Victorian terraced houses but it’s not stuccoed in the past. Its façade has been fashionably Fa’ow Ball’d a shade of Vole’s Breath or Elephant’s Back or Banker’s Wife’s One Shade of Grey with details like the Doric porticos and piano nobile balustrades picked out in crisp folded linen white. Neighbours are as
eccentric eclectic as the interiors. The polychromatic stonework of the Natural History Museum looms over Queensberry Place; opposite the hotel is the byzantine brickwork of Institut Français. A few doors down lurks the intriguingly named College of Psychic Studies. Several streets away in Roland Gardens lingers Anoushka Hempel’s Blakes Hotel where the whole boutique rage took off.
The name Exhibitionist Hotel shrieks streaks of “clothes optional” but while there are no shrinking violets at the opening, the only wallflowers being fabric, it’s actually a play on nearby Exhibition Road plus having lots of its very own gallery space. Has anyone else a loaded pistol? Yes. Le Gun. The art collective takes the hotel by storm with large scale drawings and murals. Standing sentinel at the door is a mannequin suitably unclothed except for a lampshade on his head. It’s an artwork by Jimmie Martin, otherwise known as Jimmie Karlsson and Martin Nihlmar. Queen of pop Madonna commissioned Jimmie Martin to design a golden throne for her Super Bowl half time performance and it’s easy to see why. They don’t hold back. “We paint on things to create progressive art,” says Jimmie. “Bondage meets luxury I guess!” Martin adds, “Upcycling antiques at our studio on Kensington Church Street, that’s our thing.” London based Jimmie Martin and Squint designed the penthouse suites.
Hotel founder Manhad Narula commissioned designer Steve Crummack to oversee the interior concept. “Cool pieces and vintage furniture,” is how he sums it up. “We wanted to retain the period feel while also focusing on the weak points and having fun with them.” That explains the psychedelic fake flower faux grass filled lift rising to hippy heaven next to the drawing room marble fireplace. “You can see right through the reception desk,” he laughs, “so that leg candy is visible!” Steve designed the three basement suites. “They have their own private entrances so you can have fun, invite your mates over for a party. The suites pay homage to the era of fabulous travel!” In the ground floor Abstract bar, cocktails prepared by mixologist Isaac Muigai vie with installations for colourfulness. Rough Luxe is so last year. Lux Lisbon and Art Luxe are so now, so so now. Drown your joy in beauty. A pair of female legs stick upright from an urn. Has a guest made an exhibition of herself? Zany has a new.