Put Art, young people and a number of hotel rooms in a glossy hotel together right in the heart of London: the result is unexpectedly not a party everyone has to recover from the day after, this time; it is rather a non-conventional time when artists find the freedom to create their own environment and visitors join together for a real art experience, to (sort of) quote Cristina Cellini Antonini, its director and curator.
The concept of Art Rooms is simple and irresistible at the same time: let’s give young artists a platform to meet buyers, let’s give art lovers a place where, room after room, meeting artists not only is possible, it is actually the focus of the entire experience.
So here we are at Meliá White House hotel, strolling around, room after room, trying to say intelligent things to artists so they don’t think we are silly. I almost have a heart attack when meeting Kevin Dagg in person – I should have known of course he was there, should have read carefully my pamphlet, and thank God I didn’t: I got this immense surprising pleasure instead. We stay in his room maybe a little too long, a queue goes increasing outside the door, but I am not so concerned, as I get to see his eyes get teary when explaining Breaking Point (2013). The image inspiring this wood-carved heart-breaking work of Art is taken from a newspaper photograph of a prisoner being ‘softened up’ in Abu Ghraib prison in 2004. He has the maquette with him, right in the room and I just can’t believe it.
If I haven’t made this clearer already, we are right now in a bedroom, with somebody I have admired since a long time – although he too is a young, contemporary artist, asking direct questions without second guessing from books, websites, youtube. None of that: his words, my ears. Fantastico. Some artists are so young and so evidently at the beginning of their career, some of them surely with the extra factor, that one should spend an entire week between these corridors and invest what’s necessary. Art does work like that: when something speaks to us, and does it with a universal language, nothing can be keep us away from that piece of eternity. We want to own it, to be defined by it, to penetrate the sense of life through that artist’s sight.
I wish I was an artist.
We meet Cristina and her team at the end of the journey, and she introduces this venture to all of us, some hundreds of previewers, explaining what’s the aim of ArtRooms. We have no technical time for our interview so we have to postpone it to next week, on the phone. We make it happen and thankfully her voice is as clear as an alphabet written on the wall the first day of school: no surprise, apart from her involvement in Art, she has been a theatre actress. I can get every word she says. Le Dame Gallery, an immense space at the Meliá White House hotel devoted to contemporary, unexplored artists, mainly Italians, is planning on two major events this year, one during the winter (December) I assisted to and one in the summer around June. Cristina explains to me this is an itinerant entity, with a natural vocation to get to all the European capitals and, why not, further.