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The Savoy Artists by Sally Vaughan

30-01-2019 / Art & Literature

A collection of contemporary artworks that tell the stories of the hotel.

The Savoy has enjoyed a long history of playing host to artists and commissioning artwork since first opening in 1889, attracting an enviable guest list of luminaries from the world of art. Keen to re-establish its cultural links, The Savoy launched a collection of contemporary artwork working with Sally Vaughan of Go Figurative, a bespoke artist agency and art consultancy.

“The Savoy approached us in
2011,” she says. “The hotel was looking to commission a number of artworks
by contemporary artists that had relevance to the hotel. We set about finding very talented, skillful artists, befitting the hotel that is synonymous with fine craftsmanship. It’s designed in
a combination of Edwardian and Art Deco, so it was quite a challenging brief to find artists’ work that would be strong and contemporary enough to work well in this environment.”

The collection continues the long association The Savoy has enjoyed with artists such as James McNeill Whistler, who famously painted the hotel scaffolding before it opened, and Claude Monet, who painted the river view from the balcony of his room.

“The first process for us was to really understand more about the heritage of The Savoy,” continues Sally “Each of the artists has created work that’s individual; they’re not related in any way, but in common to all is a specific connected to the hotel. Each artwork is related to part of the hotel’s history.”


A Time for Reflection by renowned artist Stuart McAlpine Miller hangs 
in the Thames Foyer. Hailed as one
 of the most collectable artists of the moment, McAlpine Miller has garnered international praise for his distinctive style of painting. The Savoy has welcomed an array of stars from stage and screen since opening, and many of these guests form the inspiration for the eight-piece collection, including Katharine Hepburn, Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe.

McAlpine Miller fully immersed himself in the rich history of The Savoy, spending time looking through the archives. Elements of the hotel, both past and present, can be seen in the layers of these intricately painted works, such as the original cover of The Savoy Cocktail Book, past guest cards, the reopening date of ‘10.10.10’ and interiors – even one of The Savoy’s long-standing doorman.


Artist-in-residence David Downes was commissioned to create artwork for The Savoy’s Front Hall. Inspired by a drawing in the hotel’s collection, which shows the Thames in 1957, Downes was positioned on the roof during the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, when a 1,000-strong flotilla sailed past. David’s work has captured the panoramic views from The Savoy’s roof in fine detail, including London landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s Cathedral, as well as new additions such as the Shard, the Gherkin and the London Eye. The commission is also partly inspired by Canaletto’s iconic work, The River Thames on Lord Mayor’s Day. Over three metres in length, the stunning work took David nearly three months to complete whilst working in the hotel’s Thames Foyer.


As an artist specialising in marine and contemporary cityscapes, Douglas Gray was chosen to create a painting for the River Room, an events room within the hotel with spectacular views of the River Thames and famous London landmarks. Douglas was commissioned for his use of light reflection on water, something that Monet famously captured when painting from a guest room at the hotel. Douglas captured the famous views over the river and the city of London in a painting titled Cloudbreak, River Thames. The painting is on permanent display in The Savoy’s River Room.


The fourth piece in the collection 
is a sculpture by Jonty Hurwitz. His commission was unveiled at the launch of Kaspar’s at The Savoy, and now takes pride of place in the restaurant. This is a contemporary version of Kaspar, a two-foot wooden sculpture of a black cat created in 1927 by British designer Basil Ionides to stave off bad luck. Hurwitz’s distorted work is a scan of the original Kaspar, which has been digitally fabricated. The ‘anamorphic sculpture’ is only revealed when positioned in front of a reflective cylinder mirror. A selection of framed prints, cards and notelets are available for purchase in Savoy Tea, The Savoy’s bijou tea shop.


Melba at The Savoy is the high-end patisserie 
at the very front of the hotel. The approach for artist Dawn Coulter Cruttenden was to create a piece that enabled staff to tell the story of Melba, the history of the Peach Melba and its association with the hotel. The Legend of Melba tells the story of how Auguste Escoffier, once head chef at The Savoy, created the Peach Melba for Australian opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba, after whom the dessert and the hotel’s gourmet counter is named. As a triptych, the artwork comprises three pieces that will tell the story of The Savoy’s association with Nellie Melba and the Peach Melba.


The newest addition to the collection is a series of Churchill inspired cartoons by young artist Zoom Rockman, aged just 18, created specifically for the hotel’s restaurant Simpson’s in the Strand. The collection features 6 drawings of Churchill, who regularly dined at the restaurant, and recollects stories of the great leader, including his beloved ‘OMG’ drink, and the time he shared a steak with a waiter to show that in wartime ‘We are all in this together’. The sketches are located throughout the Simpson’s dining hall and the bar area.