Ever fancied spending the evening with the magic director for the Harry Potter films? Or seeing the Bank of England's private art collection? I spoke to Chris Pensa about his unique membership club, Love Art London that offers these experiences and more.
How did you come up with the idea for Love Art London?
I actually had this idea in the Eduardo Chillida Sculpture Park outside San Sebastian on my honeymoon in 2009. We were the only people there and I thought that was mad. I figured there were so many places in my home town of London that people should get to see but for many reasons they don't, mostly because they don't know they exist. And right on their doorstep too. I wanted to provide an interesting programme of behind the scenes experiences that capture the imagination of a young, interesting crowd; that get them talking and looking at art in a different way. Mostly I wanted to create exciting and inspiring experiences for folks to enjoy after a hard days grind at the office. Most people have desk jobs but unless there's something meaningful and interesting to look forward to at the end of it what's the point?
What can members expect to experience?
This is very much an alternative to battling your way thought the Tate on a Saturday afternoon with the world and his wife. How much do you actually take from an experience like that, having paid to see a show? In my experience not enough. Everything we do is private, after hours and up close and personal. We also encourage informal discussion and interaction amongst our group and the amazing people we come into contact with. If we're meeting a famous artist like Sir Anthony Caro it's important everyone gets a chance to chat to him, ask him questions and get as close to the action as possible. The same applies if we meet a curator who's giving us a private tour of a gallery show like our behind the scenes trip to The Museum of Everything last night. And that's why for most of our gigs we have only 25 places up for grabs, because the are special moments. These are integral parts of our experiences and make what we do unique.
What have been your highlights so far?
An evening with the Director of Magic for the Harry Potter films has to be up there. Afternoon tea with Sir Anthony Caro was a very special moment. At our behind the scenes visit to the Bank of England's art collection we were inside Mervyn King's office looking at his Canaletto. The night we spent in Dennis Severs' House in complete silence. One of the most exciting gigs was a treasure hunt through Aplsey House in pitch darkness with only a torch as a guide which people loved. And I'm super excited about some of the stuff we've lined up for next year. We have a taxidermist who's agreed to give a live demonstration, exploring the relationship between art and science. That's happening in March. Also in March is an evening with Bill Viola, the grandfather of video art. And one I can't wait for is a visit to London's most famous tattoo parlour in Farringdon for a close look at body art. That's happening in April.
Any London artists you're still dying to meet or private collections you'd like to see?
Thousands! There are so many people to meet and places to take people to. I'd love to arrange a fancy dress tea party with Grayson Perry where we could quiz him about life. We're also planning to visit Sir Peter Blake at his incredible museum like studio. One artist I really love is Bob and Roberta Smith so meeting him for a chin wag about life and art over a cuppa is definitely on my to do list for next year. It's a long list and one thing we ain't short of is ideas!
If someone had only a day in London, where would you recommend they visit?
Right now I'd say people should go see Exhibition #3 at The Museum of Everything in Primrose Hill. It's one of my favourite haunts in London. I'd probably then stop in for lunch or a drink at The Princess of Wales round the corner, a pub which has a famous Banksy in the garden. Whilst in that northern part of town I'd also suggest popping to architect Erno Goldfinger's house, 2 Willow Road, a real gem full of great Modernist works of art. I'd probably then head to The Courtauld Gallery to check out the Cezanne exhibition - the Courtauld's an incredible place that not enough people know about. Their exhibitions are always small, maybe 25 works in total, which allow you the time to study everything. And for a small gallery they have an impressive collection of masterpieces in their permanent collection too. I'd then head over to the National Portrait Gallery for a drink in their top floor café which has one of the most incredible panoramic views over London. And it's cheaper than the London Eye!
And whats on your Christmas wishlist this year? Well as Love Art London has just launch Gift Membership in time for Christmas I'm going to opt for that although I get to go to all the gigs anyway! We have two types of gift membership available, SHARE THE LOVE: ANY 3 which is £55 and SHARE THE LOVE: ANY 5 which is £85. For more information visit:http://www.loveartlondon.com/membership/