A Private View with Kit Kemp
“Buying a piece of art is always going to be memorable.”
Over the coming months we will be asking a number of collectors to share their passion and joy for buying and living with art, and how it inspires them.
The first is interior designer Kit Kemp MBE, who over the years has been forging an internationally-acclaimed reputation, not only for her unique hotel interiors as founder and creative director of Firmdale Hotels and Kit Kemp Design Studio, but also as a successful textiles, fragrance and homewares designer and author. Kit is a highly respected and passionate advocate of contemporary art and has been working closely with, and collecting from Cristea Roberts Gallery, for over twenty years.
Kit has selected several of her favourite works below and discusses how each artist inspires her; the importance of original prints; how she collects; and her advice on beginning a collection.
Why do you collect prints?
The appeal of collecting prints lies in the accessibility to well-known artists that I admire. Their unique work can be out of my price bracket but the prints mean that I am able to hang them in my interiors with pride. For the artist it means more people can enjoy their work and find out more about them. Art is a learning process and the more we are exposed to it the more we are intrigued.
Can you describe the creation of art salons in your hotels?
With each hotel I learn more about architecture, building, engineering, history and art. At Charlotte Street Hotel, in the heart of Bloomsbury, London, which we converted from a dental warehouse into a hotel, I became interested in the Bloomsbury Set artists from the beginning of the twentieth century. I loved the idea of their weekly meetings or salons to discuss art and finally the creation of the Omega Workshop by Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. This interest carried on to the creation of our first new build hotel in New York. It was originally a car park between two buildings. We created the Crosby Street Hotel from a hole in the ground. It is often difficult to get going on a project. I decided that “art inspired by the written word” would be a great idea. I had the art salon idea at the back of my mind throughout the project which helped the creative process from start to finish and ideas for the purchase of artists work.
How have your tastes changed since you started collecting?
I expect they should but I find that my first loves always last. So many of my first purchases are still my very favourites. It is the same with designing. If in doubt go back to the basics and what was the initial inspiration. True loves always last and bring many wonderful memories. I often say to my husband “if everything else is taken away from us, no one can take away the incredible journey we have made.” This also is so intrinsically linked to the art we have loved.
What is your advice for collecting art?
Take a deep breath and go for it. Buying a piece of art is always going to be memorable. All my favourite art has a story to it. I have only ever regretted what I have not bought, never what I have bought. We fade, but our art collections do not.
Please view works selected by Kit below and contact [email protected] if you would like to receive prices or require any further information.
“I love the immediacy of Howard Hodgkin’s work. That blast of colour that immediately affects my mood. His work reminds me of sitting in a fast car looking at scenes as I pass by at speed. There is movement, temperature, time of day and mood, isolated for a simple second as I whizz by. His work invigorates me.”
“I love Joe Tilson’s work. His feeling for mythology, science, ecology, health, our fragile balance within a network. Of course, I also love his sense of fun and way of looking at the world. I feel refreshed when I look at his work. He was the first to care about what we eat and drink and how we live. He was way ahead of his time. It would be interesting to talk to him about how we have slowly caught up with his ideas. I expect he talks to plants too.”
Mimmo Paladino’s work is strong and graphic. He plays with materials to create an arresting viewpoint. He even makes his own paper to print and paint upon. I never tire of his work, it is ageless, and I like to hang more than one piece in a room. His work can hold a room together by adding strength and bold interest. It looks as good in a very contemporary interior as it does in a traditional one. His work makes me want to ask many questions, to take pause and to think.”
"I was introduced to Paul Winstanley’s work at the Basel Art Fair many years ago. I bought a painting of a view through net curtains looking out of a sixties style window frame onto misty trees. Everything about the painting deserves repeated viewing, the subtlety of colour the apparent mundaneness of the view but also the absolute beauty of it is very uplifting. His work may not take the eye immediately but somehow remains there. I like to look at his work over time.”
"Magnificent, mighty and bold results made from a handprint. Richard Long’s work can be breathtaking in its magnitude, and so simple and speedy in its application. He is a brave artist. I long to empty a four-storey space in a sky scraper and allow Richard to fill the space.”
“I remember Alan Cristea introducing me to Julian Opie’s work, as well as prints by Michael Craig-Martin. Alan’s excitement about the artists made me look twice. I usually like my art to look handmade, blots warts and all. These artists were the antithesis of this approach. It took me a while to catch on but now I am a proud owner of Julian Opie’s work. He is a valued presence in my interiors. There is precision and a story and a feeling of time held up to the microscope in each piece of work. I value them greatly.”
Artworks at Firmdale Hotels
As Time Goes By (red) and (blue), 2009, by Howard Hodgkin
“The first time I saw As Time Goes By, 2009, was at Howard Hodgkin’s studio in Bloomsbury just by the British Museum. We went to visit the studio and saw the two ginormous prints, each measuring over 20 ft long. We were in the process of creating a new build hotel in Soho called the Ham Yard Hotel. The hotel also involved the creation of 12 shops, 24 apartments, an underground car park, restaurants, bars, meeting rooms and a bowling alley. I had never been in a bowling alley that I wanted to remain in for more than two minutes, so it was a trial.
I decided the only way to use all the fabulous space was to hang wonderful art. I realised that I had the opportunity to hang the two enormous artworks side by side. This is very unusual, and I was excited by this realisation on the plans. I oversee all the hanging of art in my hotels myself. It was a red-letter day when As Time Goes By was finally hung. It still gives me a little tug when I see it now.”
About Kit Kemp
About Kit Kemp
The Kit Kemp Design Studio is celebrated for its individual and original approach to hotel and residential design, with colourful and detailed storytelling which celebrates craft and captures the imagination.
Kit has collaborated with leading global design brands such as Wedgwood, Wilton Carpets, Andrew Martin, Anthropologie, Christopher Farr, Chelsea Textiles, Fine Cell Work and Porta Romana, creating collections including tableware, fragrance, furniture, fabrics, wallpaper and lighting.
Kit has won many awards including House & Garden’s Hotel Designer of the Year, Andrew Martin International Interior Designer of the Year and CN Traveller’s Best Hotel in the World for Design.