How a new gallery is turning Brompton Road into a cultural destinationWords: Charlotte Metcalf
ARX for art’s sake
On my way back from a meeting in Knightsbridge the other day, I was in search of the coffee shop and Boots that I remembered being opposite Brompton Square. To my surprise, I found they had been replaced by a gleaming new frontage belonging to The ARX gallery, that enticed me into a big, open, inviting space full of light.
Inside the ARX gallery are bright contemporary artworks and some beautiful furniture. Towering upwards between handsome (recently uncovered and restored) cast-iron pillars, is a 19-foot sculpture, Dreams Matter, by the American artist Brendan Murphy, and part of his Boonji Spaceman series, instantly defining The ARX as a gallery unafraid to embrace such futuristic, gigantic works. The ARX has actually been open for a year, fast gaining a reputation for displaying sellable exhibitions by globally renowned artists, while curating the work of some of the world’s most exciting emerging artists and giving a carefully chosen artist-in-residence a generous in-house studio space. Bold in scope and ambition, The ARX covers 15,000 sq ft across four storeys and is the fulcrum for Knightsbridge’s exciting transformation into a vibrant cultural hub.
Sandwiched between South Kensington’s Museum Lane and traditional galleries such as Crane Kalman, the fine art gallery specialising in modern painting and sculpture, The ARX is proving a catalyst in rebranding the Brompton Road beyond its core identity as the home of Harrods into a major destination for art lovers. The ARX shares its building with Smallbone, its sister brand, with its bespoke, luxury cabinetry on display to great advantage, helped by having the world’s biggest commercial Samsung 8K screen in the central atrium, which is used in client design consultations. The ARX is a new breed of glossy, spacious emporium in which contemporary art happily co-exists for sale alongside bespoke products of exceptional quality from Smallbone.
When I visit, the giant 8K screen is showing a film about the young Canadian painter, Raine Storey, The ARX’s current artist-in-residence. As we watch Raine at work, her finished paintings blaze with colour from the walls around us. Artists already championed by the gallery include Irish landscape photographer David Magee and five artists (Sigurdur Olafsson, María Jose Benvenuto, Ella Baudinet, Fernando Gaspar and Lucas Thorik) who in May 2022 joined Raine in a group show, Behind the Canvas. A selection of the artists’ works remains on display throughout the gallery, representing the variety and international scope of the curation, while the ground floor is dominated by Raine’s solo show Exquisite Corpse.
Becky Bosworth, one of The ARX’s curators, shows me round. ‘Being a new venture, we have a boutique roster of artists,’ she explains. ‘As a core team of three, alongside my colleagues Kate Hugill and Nicola Charalambous, we can really nurture our artists and focus on supporting new talent. We have seven screens in our huge external windows offering an exceptional opportunity for emerging artists to display their work to the public on one of London’s busiest streets. We love working directly with the artists, and visitors enjoy knowing there is an artist working in the studio downstairs.’
Before Raine, the Australian artist Ella Baudinet was a resident, preceded by Dutch artist Lucas Thorik earlier in the year. Each resident artist is offered a solo exhibition by the gallery, so Lucas will show from December this year and Ella’s ethereal canvases will take pride of place in spring 2023.
‘To have a vast studio in central London is an absolute gift for an artist,’ Becky says, ‘and with each artist the studio atmosphere changes completely, which brings fresh excitement that really communicates itself to our visitors.’
The size and contemporary glamour of the place with its soaring ceilings means The ARX is already in great demand as a fashionable party venue. This is further helping to reposition Knightsbridge firmly at the heart of the London’s burgeoning art scene, with The ARX as the go-to spot from which to explore new and established artists as well as source pieces of exquisite craftsmanship.
‘People are loving our concept of being a “citadel” or little city with the gallery bridging the gap between physical and digital creative realm as well as bringing together art, design, craftsmanship and technology,’ says Becky.
Steve Medway, CEO of The Knightsbridge Partnership, says, ‘As the collective voice for Knightsbridge businesses, we see ourselves as a catalyst for change. We’re committed to extending Knightsbridge’s matchless global reputation for high-end retail to include culture, art, food, drink, and green spaces. We’re aiming to deliver a thriving neighbourhood, offering stimulating cultural experiences that nurture our local community while attracting both international and UK visitors.’
‘People are excited about how we’re curating such a diverse programme of dynamic, multi-sensory exhibitions with the artists available and visible on site,’ adds Becky. ‘It’s enabling us to attract and nurture Knightsbridge’s fast-expanding creative community.’
The ARX, 197-205 Brompton Road, London SW3 1LB; 0203 370 8051; thearx.com