A walk on the wild side

Kit Kemp, the cre­ative force be­hind some of Lon­don’s most ex­cit­ing ho­tels, be­lieves that art is the se­cret to cre­at­ing spa­ces with mean­ing. This au­tumn, she’s of­fer­ing tours that will re­veal some of most ex­cit­ing works on show in her own in­te­ri­ors and nea

Country Life Every Week - - Interiors -

Kit Kemp, co-founder and de­sign di­rec­tor of Fir­m­dale Ho­tels —which, at the last count, owns eight ho­tels in Lon­don and two in New York—has launched a se­ries of walks with the aim of demon­strat­ing how con­tem­po­rary art can trans­form an in­te­rior into some­thing memorable and mean­ing­ful.

From Ham Yard, just off Re­gent’s Street in W1, to Blooms­bury’s Char­lotte Street Ho­tel, the Fir­m­dale premises all share an un­mis­tak­able house style that re­flects Kit’s idio­syn­cratic eye for bright colours, con­trast­ing fab­rics and ar­rest­ing art­works. Her per­sonal mantra when it comes to dec­o­rat­ing is that ev­ery room is like a painted can­vas and has to tell a story and that of­ten be­gins with art.

‘to stop a busy guest on their way to a meet­ing or some­one who is jet­lagged and grumpy in their tracks and make them look around for even a mo­ment is what i try to achieve,’ she ex­plains.

this ap­proach fol­lows in the foot­steps of other ‘art ho­tels’, in­clud­ing New York’s Gramercy Ho­tel, which has works by Damien Hirst, and La Colombe d’or in Saint-paul-de-vence, which boasts a mu­ral by Fer­nand Léger in the restau­rant. Kit’s col­lec­tion, how­ever, jux­ta­poses works by award-win­ning estab­lished names against oth­ers by up-and-com­ing artists and pieces of folk art from around the world.

the walk, which be­gins in Ham Yard, will tour the pieces on­site, in­clud­ing As time goes by, two can­vases by Howard Hodgkin that stand side by side in Croc, the ho­tel’s 1950s-in­spired bowl­ing al­ley. ‘i’ve never been in a bowl­ing al­ley that i wanted to re­main in for more than two min­utes, so that was go­ing to be a chal­lenge,’ laughs Kit. ‘One of the so­lu­tions i came up with was to ac­tu­ally have good art on the walls.’

Other works in­clude Group, the spe­cially com­mis­sioned sculp­ture by turner prize-win­ning tony Cragg, which stands in the court­yard of the ho­tel, as well as the large oil by Lucy Kem­p­welch that hangs in the li­brary and which Kit counts as one of her favourites. ‘i think she was as good a painter of horses as munnings, but, be­ing a woman, she was never taken se­ri­ously.’

A mag­pie eye makes grad­u­ate shows such as the one at the Chelsea Col­lege of Art al­most a must-visit; it was there that Kit spot­ted work by Hermione Skye O’hea and com­mis­sioned her to pro­duce the loom art in­stal­la­tion that hangs above the re­cep­tion desk. ‘there’s al­ways a bal­ance that needs to be achieved,’ ex­plains Kit. ‘i like dis­play­ing works by estab­lished artists be­side pieces by younger ones. it makes a room feel less se­ri­ous and more witty.’

Af­ter­wards, Cour­tauld-trained cu­ra­tor Olivia pater­son will take the group to pri­vate views of the lat­est shows and ex­hi­bi­tions at top Soho and may­fair galleries, in­clud­ing mar­ian Good­man, the oc­to­ge­nar­ian New York dealer who opened her gallery off Golden Square in 2014; con­tem­po­rary spe­cial­ist Larry Gagosian, who has three galleries in Lon­don; and Sav­ile Row’s gallery dou­ble act of Or­dovas and Hauser & Wirth, be­fore fin­ish­ing off with a three­course lunch or af­ter­noon tea at the ho­tel.

‘Our aim is to show how to col­lect and suc­cess­fully hang art, mak­ing it play­ful and en­tic­ing within a liv­ing space,’ states Kit. The next se­ries of walks take place on Septem­ber 2, Oc­to­ber 7 and Novem­ber 11. Tick­ets cost £95, in­clud­ing lunch or af­ter­noon tea at Ham Yard (020–3642 1007; ham­yard@fir­m­dale.com)

‘Our aim is to show how to col­lect and suc­cess­fully hang art

Kit Kemp’s ef­fer­ves­cent in­te­rior in the Ham Yard is de­signed to stop even the most busy guests and en­cour­age them to look around

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