Hauser & Wirth goes into night business


Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look for regular publications that take a racy perspective on art and museum histories.

Your intrepid pen pal knows a thing or two about drinking places and private clubs. So imagine our astonishment at the news that Soho’s most famous club, the Groucho, is to be taken over by Artfarm, owned by Manuela and Iwan Wirth, who are perhaps a little more familiar with Apollothe readers. That’s right, mega-gallery Hauser & Wirth is getting into late-night business.

Of course, it’s not like they’re strangers to what some might call “hospitality.” While Rakewell has yet to enjoy the luxury of Fife Arms, the Wirth-owned pub in the Scottish Highlands, it’s clear its owners have honed their ability to look after people.

Photo: Chris Lawrence / Alamy Stock Photo

Rakewell remembers when the Groucho was a London literary hub, founded by publishing luminaries Carmen Callil, Ed Victor, Liz Calder and Michael Sissons. London was different then; everyone wanted to be an author and have a launch party whereas today everyone wants to be an artist (even conceptual) and have an opening. Thank God, Artfarm is there to dig this particular furrow and, without a doubt, inaugurate an era of fertility and growth particular to the Groucho. Artfarm also said, without fear of business language, that it will look to the future with a group of younger members.

Artfarm CEO Ewan Venters said he loved the ‘genesis’ of Groucho, that it was founded out of a desire for women to have a place where they could go and meet like-minded people ideas in a city dominated by men’s clubs.’ Rakewell isn’t sure how that squares with tales of slightly more nefarious Groucho parties. The club may have an art collection with pieces by Francis Bacon, Peter Blake and Tracey Emin, to name a few, but it’s known for its members’ showboating – remember Damien Hirst putting on his £20,000 Turner-Prize winnings behind the bar or (shudder) Bono channeling his inner Marilyn Monroe while singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Bill Clinton. Still, these are at least the stuff of modern Soho legend, rather than the quiet high bohemian tales we can surely expect from Hauser & Wirth’s latest venture. Well, that’s what the art world has come to. If anyone were to ask, Rakewell will have a drink on Gin Lane…


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