London’s Savoy Hotel Continues Its Artist In Residence Tradition

The Savoy Hotel on the Strand in London has a long association with the arts.  It was built by impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte with profits from his Gilbert and Sullivan operas, opening on 6 August 1889.  Whistler and Monet famously stayed there creating some definitive views of the Thames from their balconies. Oscar Kokoschka stayed on the 8th floor and Andy Warhol entertained friends at the hotel. George Gershwin performed the British premiere of Rhapsody in Blue at the hotel in 1925.  It was a favourite haunt of many a Hollywood celebrity such as Alfred Hitchcock, Katherine Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Noel Coward and a host of others. Today, it carries out a successful Artist in Residence programme often commissioning works specifically for the hotel.

David Downes was commissioned to create a new artwork for the hotel’s Front Hall inspired by a drawing in the hotel’s collection that shows the Thames circa 1957.  This updated version depicts the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, which took place on 3 June 2012. David was positioned on the roof of the hotel recording the 1000 strong flotilla that sailed past.  David used over 300 pens and took nearly 3 months to complete the 3 metres long work, much of which was drawn from memory and photographs.  A Royal College of Art graduate, David was diagnosed with high-functioning developmental autism in his 30s and he believes his artistic talent is connected to his autism.

Yesterday, (1 May) saw a new sculptural work by the South African artist Jonty Hurwitz unveiled at the opening of the newly refurbished Kaspar’s Seafood Bar and Grill, a very impressive Art Deco-inspired restaurant  designed by Robert Angell Design studio. The interior includes hand-slumped glass, a feature chandelier, mother of pearl shelves, chrome finishing, shiny black marble surfaces, and a ‘tea-swirl’ carpet signifying the ebb and flow of the Thames.

Hurwitz, who is currently the Savoy’s artist in residence has created the latest in his Generation Pi series of anamorphic sculptures, which were launched at the Kinetic art fair in February 2013. Hurwitz explores the boundary between illusion and reality, which he describes as increasingly blurred. The works are contemporary trompe l’oeil; at first glance appearing abstract, but in mirrored reflections, representational. The series is a study on the physics of how the human brain perceives space based on Einstein’s theory E=mc2 (energy, mass and the speed of light). Each sculpture in the series is an object that could only be created by the technology of today, as over 1 billion mathematical calculations and algorithms are used in its creation.

His latest work, ‘The 14th Guest’ is inspired by the notorious story of a dinner for fourteen hosted by South African diamond magnate Woolf Joel at The Savoy in 1898.  When one guest pulled out at the last minute, another superstitious guest predicted that death would come to the first person to leave the unlucky table of thirteen.  Joel himself was the first to leave and a few weeks later was shot dead in Johannesburg.  Subsequently a member of the Savoy staff was offered to join tables of thirteen to ward off superstition. However, in 1927 British designer Basil Ionides came up with the idea of creating a two foot high sculpture of a black cat called Kaspar who would join parties of thirteen with a place set for him and a napkin placed around his neck.  Winston Churchill was so taken by Kaspar that he insisted the cat join him at every gathering at The Savoy, regardless of numbers.  Hurwitz work successfully continues this modern fable by creating an anamorphic sculpture of Kaspar which is the centrepiece of this stylish new restaurant.

Words: Sara Faith © Artlyst 2013

Top Photo: Artist Jonty Hurwitz Unveils Kaspar © Artlyst 2013

Middle Photo: Artist David Downes new work for the Savoy lobby

Bottom Photo:Detail Jonty Hurwitz ‘The 13th Guest’

London's Savoy Hotel Continues Its Artist In Residence Tradition


London's Savoy Hotel Continues Its Artist In Residence Tradition


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