If You’re Going to London, We’d Suggest an Art-Filled Detour to the Scottish Highlands and Islands
Here’s your beyond-art guide to the British capital and the northern reaches of Scotland.
It seems like art is everywhere you turn in London, which is both saying a lot and also very little. After all, it is an international art capital (and not just during Frieze). But where else can you, say, sleep in a hotel room that doubles as an inhabitable sculpture by Sir Antony Gormley?
Meanwhile, the Scottish Highlands and Islands are more than loch-side walks and whiskey tastings. As wonderful as those things are, there’s plenty for art people to explore, too.
For discerning travelers looking to experience the joys of a quick jaunt to London and northern Scotland (with as little as 10 hours’ notice, no less), NetJets offers personalized service with heightened attention to detail gained from more than 55 years of experience, industry-leading standards, and a multilingual team dedicated to anticipating your every need.
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LONDON: Days 1–4
See and Do: After a pandemic-induced pause, Frieze London and Frieze Masters are returning to Regent’s Park with galleries from 39 countries. For a new section called “Unworlding,” Palais de Tokyo curator Cédric Fauq commissioned works from emerging artists focused on the creative potential of things falling apart. And with its six millennia of art, Masters is introducing “Stand Out,” curated by Luke Syson (of Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum) to reconsider the cultural contexts of “decorative” objects in art history.
Frieze Sculpture is as delightful as ever—even while addressing themes such as geopolitical power structures and climate change. Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s Clare Lilley has curated a colorful range of works by artists from Daniel Arsham to Ibrahim El-Salahi to Rose Wylie in the English Gardens, on view through October 31.
For the first time, Frieze is offering member-based events (private studio visits, workshops, etc.) around the city; it is also unveiling its first permanent art space, Mayfair’s No. 9 Cork Street, designed as a sort of residency for galleries from around the world. Guatemala’s Proyectos Ultravioleta is among the first guests, showing works from the Swiss-Argentinean painter Vivian Suter and her late collage-artist mother, Elisabeth Wild, from October 7–23. And a new commission from Sung Tieu—the Vietnam-born, Berlin-based winner of the Frieze Artist Award 2021—will have its debut on October 15.
Don’t miss 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair at Somerset House (from October 14-17), with artworks from 48 international galleries—20 of them from the African continent. Sharjah Art Foundation’s Omar Kholeif is organizing a series of artist talks, performances, and screenings on the topic of “Continental Drift.” 1-54 is also hosting special projects around town in partnership with Christie’s, whose Duke Street space will have a satellite show curated by the Cameroonian art historian and critic Christine Eyene.
Meanwhile, courtesy of the young Nigerian-British curator Aindrea Emelife, and coinciding with Black History month in the U.K., Christie’s King Street galleries are exhibiting “Bold, Black, British.” The show, which runs from October 1-22, will feature works by 27 Black British artists, from the pioneering Sonia Boyce to the Malawi-born multimedia artist Samson Kambalu.
And Gagosian’s “Social Works II” (October 7–December 18, 2021) is the follow-up to writer, curator, and recently appointed Gagosian director Antwaun Sargent’s New York show, which spotlighted socially engaged works by leading Black artists. The London iteration will have new works from architect David Adjaye, artist Lubaina Himid, fashion designer Grace Wales Bonner, and other creators from across the African Diaspora.
There are more must-see shows around town. Among them: “Lux” at 180 Studios, 180 The Strand—the Brutalist landmark turned contemporary cultural hub—is staging large-scale and immersive new-media installations by artists such as Es Devlin, Carsten Nicolai, and Hito Steyerl (October 13–December 18).
Tate Britain has a major retrospective of the Lisbon-born, London-based Paula Rego, credited with revolutionizing representations of women in figurative art (until October 24). And south of the Thames, Tate Modern has commissioned a site-specific installation from the Korean-American conceptual artist Anicka Yi for its Turbine Hall, opening on October 12 and closing on January 16, 2022.
With “Mend Piece for London” at Whitechapel Gallery (through January 2, 2022), Yoko Ono is reviving an interactive installation that she staged in London more than 50 years ago. Upon entering, you’ll find broken pottery fragments, glue, scissors, tape, and twine on two white tables, plus instructions from the artist: “Mend carefully. / Think of mending the world at the same time.”
Whitechapel Gallery is also anchoring a multi-venue presentation dedicated to the Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates and his work with clay. “A Clay Sermon” (which runs through January 9, 2022) features the artist’s ceramic objects and installations from the last two decades, along with new sculptures and a film that together explore the material’s social and spiritual legacies.
Gates—who will design the 2022 Serpentine Pavilion, the first non-architect tapped for the annual commission—has in the meantime been emeritus fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) Research Institute, studying the relationship between Eastern and Western practices in craft over the course of two years. He has an intervention in the V&A’s Ceramics galleries until January 9, 2022, with an accompanying show of new works at White Cube Mason’s Yard until October 30, 2021.
Eat and Drink: These days, some of London’s best restaurants can be found in its art institutions. They include Spring in Somerset House’s New Wing. It offers seasonally inspired menus, which change daily, from the Australian-born chef Skye Gyngell.
And since opening inside the Whitechapel Gallery last year, Townsend has become a favorite among Londoners for its modern British fare (roasted pheasant, parsnip hash, Cornish leeks and prunes) and the evolving list of natural and traditional wines.
Artist Jonny Gent and St. John Restaurant co-founder Jon Spiteri just opened Clerkenwell’s Sessions Arts Club in an 18th-century courthouse restored by SODA architect Russell Potter and Sätila Studios. Expect an art gallery, a roof terrace with an infinity pool, and chef Florence Knight’s simple yet refined dishes informed by British, French, and Italian cooking, with ingredients from local growers.
Stay: At The Beaumont—the ca.-1926, transatlantic-style hotel in Mayfair, with its new, Thierry Despont-designed Gatsby’s Room lounge—you can sleep inside Room (2014), an inhabitable sculpture created for the property by Antony Gormley.
Nearby, Claridge’s is as stylish and Art Deco as ever—especially with its new, pink onyx–clad Painter’s Room bar. Pop in for an artful cocktail (say, a Saint Remy—a sort of martini inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s Almond Blossom, also with apple and quince) amid a stained-glass installation commissioned from British artist Annie Morris. And its newly Michelin-starred Davies and Brook—chef Daniel Humm’s first London foray, sibling of his New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park—is one of the hottest tables in town.
In Whitechapel, the duo behind Blue Mountain School (BMS), a seminal East London concept store and project space, has turned a Georgian townhouse into the three-bedroom, nearly 3,000-square-foot New Road Residence. Available in its entirety both short and long term, it houses furnishings by Max Lamb and Faye Toogood, art curated by local gallerist Stuart Shave, literature selected by King’s college philosopher Clayton Littlejohn, and a cellar of wines chosen by Mãos (BMS’s Michelin-starred restaurant)—all for sale.
Fly from London to the Scottish Highlands
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SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS:
See and Do: Art and design lovers should not miss the Hill House, an Art Nouveau landmark in the Victorian resort town of Helensburgh. The late, great Glaswegian architect and artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed every aspect of the space—exteriors and interiors, furnishings, fittings, and fixtures. It is a total work of art. Thankfully, the National Trust for Scotland recently reopened it after years of closure due to more than a century of water damage. The solution—a mod mesh “Box” fitted over the house, designed by London architects Carmody Groarke—has itself become an attraction as the world’s largest chainmail structure, now permanently installed.
The ca.-1885 Aberdeen Art Gallery houses one of the country’s most important collections, with works from national and international names, both emerging and established, from Scottish multimedia artist Rachel McLean to Impressionist titan Claude Monet. After half a decade of restoration work to the tune of nearly $50 million, it reopened in 2019. As the first artist-in-residence (until October 10, 2021), Maja Zećo has been performing multidisciplinary works inspired by Barbara Hepworth’s Meditation and J.D. Fergusson’s Eastre, Hymn to the Sun (both on display).
There are a number of smaller, more remote operations that are worth the effort to reach—like Gaada, an artist-led, community-based visual art workshop and exhibition space in a tiny former Methodist chapel on Shetland’s Burra Isle. (The Turner Prize-winning architecture, design, and art practice Assemble is building Gaada’s future site in Scalloway.) Based on the Isle of Skye, Atlas Arts doesn’t even have a space; instead, it organizes gatherings along with site-specific and performance art projects across the Northwest coast of Scotland.
And Mount Stuart is a quirky art-and-design Mecca on the Isle of Bute. The Neo-Gothic mansion has 300 acres of gardens, the world’s first heated swimming pool (so it’s said), and a Marble Hall with a vaulted ceiling swathed in a crystal-studded star map and stained-glass windows depicting the zodiac signs. It has an impressive collection of art—from Dutch and Flemish Old Masters to works by celebrated Scottish portraitist Henry Raeburn—as well as artifacts like Shakespeare’s First Folios, largely amassed in the 18th century by the Third Earl of Bute. There’s also a robust contemporary art program that commissions works from artists near and far.
Eat and Drink: With her partner Rob Latimer, the Noma and Fäviken–trained chef Pam Brunton opened Inver on a secluded stretch along Loch Fyne back in 2015. Their tiny labor of love has since become a destination in its own right, thanks to Brunton’s nostalgic, New Nordic take on classic and forgotten dishes from her homeland (think Orkney barley cake with crab-apple sorbet, dehydrated apple mousse, and marigold petals). There’s now a cluster of en-suite “bothies” and shepherd’s huts with king-size beds, deep-soaking tubs, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the 15th-century ruins of Old Castle Lachlan. Expect breakfast baskets with fresh-baked pastries and potted loch crab and, for a nightcap, complimentary sloe gin.
Whiskey aficionados will want to visit Brora, a ca.-1819 “ghost distillery” brought back to life. A victim of Scotland’s 1983 whiskey market crash, it sat closed for nearly four decades on the northeast coast of Sutherland, and its rare, smoky single malts have recently seen skyrocketing prices at auction—a 40-year-old bottle was sold for a record £54,450 ($74,415) at a Sotheby’s in 2019. Following a three-year restoration, the distillery reopened this year.
Stay: One of the most interesting hospitality projects in recent years came from Manuela and Iwan Wirth of Hauser and Wirth, who turned a 19th-century coaching inn at the heart of the Cairngorms National Park into the art-filled Fife Arms. With Scottish-eclectic interiors via Russell Sage Studio, creative residencies (Edinburgh artist and poet Alec Finlay created a guide to little-known parts of the Cairngorms during his stay), and more than 16,000 artworks across its 46 suites, dining room, pub, and whiskey bar—from antiques to commissions from the likes of Guillermo Kuitca—the hotel has turned the tiny village of Braemar into a destination for the international art world.
The Oetker Collection has been converting period homes for its new range of private, all-inclusive Masterpiece Estates. Among them is Glen Affric, with its Victorian lodge and stables on the shores of Loch Affric, surrounded by 10,000 acres of wilderness. Your host—James Middleton leads the team—will arrange everything from stag and hind stalking to vintage whiskey tastings to loch-side walks and pony rides, even guiding you along the way. The estate has been called the most beautiful place in Scotland, inspiring Sir Edwin Landseer to paint the surrounding landscape on its reading room walls.
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