Last fall, Frieze founders Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover opened Toklas, a restaurant/bar/bakery/deli in London, named after Alice B. Toklas, the writer, author of cookbooks and partner of Gertrude Stein, who would notably welcome Picasso and Picabia for dinners in their Parisian house.
Now Slotover has partnered with Tom Gidley (the artist, writer and Curly magazine co-founder) and Gabriel Chipperfield (the developer son of Sir David) to open the Fort Road Hotel in Margate, England.
The faded seaside resort has become something of an artsy destination over the past decade – think ‘Shoreditch-on-Sea’ – since David Chipperfield designed Contemporary Turner opened nearby on the waterfront, where its namesake, JMW Turnerpainted many epic seascapes (“the skies of Thanet are the fairest in all Europe”, he once said).
Most recently, while working with the Margate native Tracey Emin in her sculpture studio, the young Chipperfield came across an abandoned pub and hotel. One of the oldest buildings in the city, which would have hosted Turner in his heyday, it had long since fallen into disrepair.
It turns out that Gidley, who calls Margate home, had also stumbled across the site. In 2018, they partnered with Slotover and bought it at auction. And then they began four years of restoration work.
“It was a complete coincidence, and we had no intention of opening a hotel at the time,” Gidley told Artnet News. “We knew nothing about running an art magazine in 1990 when we met and we knew nothing about building or operating hotels when we bought it in 2018.”
But, he added, “We always thought of the hotel as a ‘big house’ and we liked it very much.”
Art is everywhere, all curated by Gidley, whose own paintings are exhibited internationally and locally – although, he says, “I’ve never curated art before and am a little reluctant to use this overused term”.
He continues: “My approach was really very simple: I played with the tradition of hotel owners hanging up works of art that they found anywhere. I had carte blanche to find and purchase vintage artwork on the basis that it appealed to me as a painter; the kind of thing that might make me stop to take a closer look if I found them at someone’s house or in a hotel.
The 14 bedrooms are understated, with mid-century furniture and 20th-century abstract art, as well as figurative oil paintings, gouaches, watercolors and prints that Gidley found in the UK, in Europe and the United States. -known mid-century female artists, such as the late British watercolourist Jean Dryden Alexander.
For contemporary works, Gidley said, “I wanted to stick to artists living or working in the area, and I knew there were enough interesting artists around me to make it work” – like Emin, whose neon works in the basement bar. reservable safe. Meanwhile, he commissioned a swirling mural from a Munich-born artist Sophie von Hellerman for the staircase between the bar and the locally inspired restaurant.
Meanwhile, photographs, postcards, memorabilia and old maps of Margate from the mid-18th to mid-20th centuries line the hallways – “to present a sort of social history of the town”, Gidley said. “These have taken a long time to come together, and it’s an ongoing process.”
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