Words Jonathan Velardi
Photography Kate Elliott
“We wish to represent emerging artists and recent art graduates, and to discover the new breed of YBAs.”
There’s no better three-syllable epizeuxis synonymous with London than ‘location, location, location’: unquestionably a twenty-first century obsession that has spread from West to East and North to South at such a rate that only multinational investment knows how. But before the influx of mega construction and unflattering monikers of skyscrapers erected for corporate business came to consume the skyline, there was the lure of the underground in the form of entertainment and nightlife that London has been so notorious for since the early eighteenth-century. This vice had always concentrated itself in Soho and the area’s forgotten identity that many continue to associate Soho with today is in part thanks to the late entrepreneur turned magnate, Paul Raymond.
Raymond earned his own moniker, ‘King of Soho’, with the lucrative launch of the risqué Raymond Revuebar at 11 Walker’s Court in 1958, followed by the introduction of equally risqué top-shelf magazines to the UK as well as subsequent property investments in the area during the Seventies. Soho Estates, founded by the magnate, is now an enviable property portfolio of commercial and residential holdings in West London, which was inherited by his two granddaughters on his death in 2008.
Earlier this year, a new contemporary art gallery opened its doors in the heart of Soho at 14 Greek Street by one such granddaughter. At the age of twenty-three, India Rose James more than recognises the changing position of Soho in recent years and is receptive to the need to revive an innovative artistic scene in what was a counter-cultural Soho during her grandfather’s reign. James set up the commercial gallery with her co-founder and partner Will Pelham to bring individual expertise to Soho Revue – a name in tribute to Raymond’s legacy. For Pelham, Greek Street is both familiar ground and a site for opportunity.
“The London art scene is one of the most vibrant art scenes in the world. It has everything an art lover would want: the best museums, the best artistic institutions, the best schools and it attracts a wealth of talented artists,” Pelham describes. The gallery ultimately works with young and emerging talent, who in exchange benefit from the central location, street frontage and floor space Soho Revue is able to provide thanks to James’s position at Soho Estates. It’s clear this ethos runs deep between the two business partners who are both under twenty-five years old with contagious Gypset flair. “We wish to represent emerging artists and recent art graduates, and to discover the new breed of YBAs.”
New talent is also reflected in the environment the two wanted to create in the former men’s working club, opting to work with young architects Magnus Casselbrant and Martin Brandsdal who founded their Fitzrovia-based firm, Hesselbrand, in 2013. Pelham explains how it was important to create different moods in each of the gallery’s rooms with the aim of making it inviting to everyone. “We wished for the space to have a fun and playful atmosphere – we’ve even turned the theatre space into a dance floor for our late nights”.
‘Nothing Perishes’, a group show of eight visual artists, inaugurated the space in April. The exhibition introduced the gallery’s mission in dealing with London-based artists, with the inclusion of sculptor Scarlett Bowman and the multi-disciplinary partnership of Walter and Zoniel. Now featuring its third exhibition, a solo show from Edinburgh College of Art MFA graduate Oliver Marsden, Soho Revue’s programme is well on its way to becoming an art diary fixture in Soho. “We want to breathe life into the space!” Pelham declares. “We regularly host discussions with a panel of art experts at the gallery, encouraging the conversation around the contemporary art scene in London. We try to engage with as many institutions as possible. We love hosting dinners for young collectors and performance evenings.”
On the gallery’s objectives in its first year, Pelham stresses Soho Revue’s support of the capital’s contemporary art scene with ambitious plans in the pipeline. “We are currently in discussion with Julia Royse – art advisor and curator at the Arts Council – on the possibility of hosting non-commercial off-site exhibitions.” Furthermore, “we’d love to participate at art fairs and are likely to apply for the more emerging art scenes such as in Istanbul and Texas.”
With new art scenes vying for the emerging artist markets across the city, there is undoubtedly fierce competition amongst commercial galleries. For Soho Revue, while emphasis is placed on the new, its provenance affiliated with Soho’s past is a recipe worthy of the investment of artworks in as much as the bricks and mortar that house them. New galleries have a hard time directing their energy in keeping afloat, let alone defending the artistic integrity of a neighbourhood. For Pelham, watching is as important as doing: “Soho remains the ideal place to sit at a café, watch the world go by and sustain the idea of the flâneur. We are very attached to the artistic heritage of Soho, which is why Soho Revue will play its part in ensuring that it’s preserved.” In the face of London’s location complex, it appears Soho may be able to reclaim its title of destination, destination, destination soon enough.