Dean Street Townhouse

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Receiver by Polly Morgan, 2009
Fox by Joss McKinley, 2009

Francesca Gavin checks out the Dean Street Townhouse

Hotels are not just places to lay your head. Increasingly you can catch some extraordinary free art exhibitions and collections on their walls. For the first of my monthly column about international hotels with impressive art, it seemed sensible to start with one I had co-curated – Dean Street Townhouse.

The Townhouse on 69 Dean Street, the latest central non-members venture from the Soho House group, is a space which aims to continue and encourage the bohemian history of Soho. In particular, to celebrate the booze, sex and hedonism that made the area such a destination for artists over the last century. The hotel is on the site of The Gargoyle Club, a former haunt for artists and writers including Noel Coward, Graham Greene, Francis Bacon and Dylan Thomas. Henri Matisee created the red and glass interior of the drinking den, and his iconic painting The Red Studio once hung on its walls. In the 1980s it turned into the club Gossips - location of infamous goth nightclub The Bat Cave and Gaz’ Rockin Blues. Tracey Emin used to work in the cloakroom.

Artist Jonathan Yeo and I invited 70 artists to create work inspired by the area and the building’s history. Charles Avery, Tom Ormond, Neal Fox and Sam Griffin made drawings of the streets; Peter Blake, Anthony Micallef and Paul Noble created red light nudes. The result was a greatest hits of British art with work by Keith Tyson, David Noonan, Mat Collishaw, Polly Morgan, Paul Fryer, Keith Coventry, Jamie Shovlin, Idris Khan, Cary Kwok, Tracey Emin and Fiona Banner hung on the walls of the restaurant in a haphazard salon style. A permanent collection of work that felt like it was always there.

Francesca Gavin is the author of Creative Space, Hell Bound and Street Renegades, all published by Laurence King. She is also a contributing editor to AnOther, Visual Arts Editor of Dazed & Confused and Art Editor of Twin