Art, Antiques & Museums Arts & Culture

London’s Bohemian Quarter, Chelsea.

  • November 18, 2023
  • 7 min read
London’s Bohemian Quarter, Chelsea.

The party’s over! The London Art Week, which ended its week’s run on 7th July, attracted many private collectors from around the world. Among items finding new homes were three pastels by Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940), acquired by a European collector and a Thames London scene by Theodore Roussel, which David Messum Fine Art sold for a six-figure sum to a UK collector. Museums, particularly American, were also enthusiastic buyers. 

However, now it’s August, traditionally the month the art trade has a well-earned repose. A few dealers, such as The Maas Gallery in Duke Street, do lock up shop for the entire month, but in these days of high overheads, there is a more philosophical “business as usual” approach. So, there are enough shows to keep all but the most fanatical ‘exhibitionholic’ engaged.

Once hailed as London’s bohemian quarter, Chelsea, has been the home of many celebrated artists – the likes of Augustus John (33 Tite Street), Singer Sargent (31 Tite Street), Turner (Davis Place, later 118-119 Cheyne Walk), Whistler (15 Tite Street) and Pre-Raphaelite members, William Holman Hunt (5 Prospect Place) and Dante Gabriel Rossetti (16 Cheyne Walk), come to mind. Also, one must not forget The Sketch Club, based at 7 Dilke Street, one of the oldest drawing clubs in Britain, and the Chelsea Art Society, which, founded in 1910, is the sole survivor of the art groups that once blossomed in Chelsea. Naturally, the artistic kudos for exhibitions remains – catch these if you can!

I recommend starting in Sloane Square, which embraces a central island with its Venus Fountain, a bronze created in 1953 by sculptor Gilbert Ledward (1888-1960). First take sustenance at one of the fashionable eateries, such as Colbert, which offers a classic Parisian café menu, or The Botanist, where you can sit back, relax, and sample their botanical gin cocktail menu. If you can wrench yourself away, enter the frenetic Kings Road, so named because it once served as a private road used by Charles II to travel to Kew. Here you will find the impressive Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, Kings Road, SW3 4RY. Opened on 9th October, 2008, the iconic, Grade II-listed building has fourteen equally proportioned exhibition spaces, spanning three floors. Currently, there are four exhibitions taking place. Want the World to Know, highlighting new sculptures by Nottingham-based Michael Forbes and while Beyond the Gaze: Reclaiming the Landscape, explores contemporary painting by women (both shows end on 28th August). Finishing on 17th September, Civilization: The Way We Live Now, features 350 works by 150 internationally renowned photographers. Personally, I staunchly advocate making your way to Gallery 3 by 31st August to view the colourful and highly imaginative paintings by Ukrainian folk artist, Maria Prymachenko (1908-1997). When a child she contracted polio and art became her antidote. Self-taught, she lived a humble life, but her captivating, naïve work, which includes extraordinary mythological creatures, was recognised in 1970 when she was officially acknowledged as the ‘People’s artist of Ukraine’. Preserved by the artist’s family for more than fifty years, these creations have never been seen in the UK before. Prymachenko’s luminous compositions and the story behind them render this an experience not to be missed.

At the other end of the Kings Road is the Box Galleries, 402 Kings Road, SW10 0LJ, which, founded in 2012, specialise in bringing together well-established artists and emerging talent. Until 29th August, the gallery presents their Summer Exhibition, featuring the striking, colourful, graffiti-inspired paintings and limited edition prints by the artist known only as ‘The Ripper’; sculpture by Alexandre Poplavsky (b. 1991); the punk inspired hand-blown glass neon creations of Mark Sloper; the wacky paintings and prints of Tommy Fiendish and the glittery mixed media images of Emma Gibbons, who, for 7 years, worked for Damian Hirst. 

From the King’s Road, walk down Old Church Street, past number 143, the home of the illustrious Chelsea Arts Club (a private members club established in 1891, it was originally located at 181 Kings Road and moved to its current premises in 1902), and enter Fulham Road. Here you will locate the Green and Stone Gallery, 251-253 Fulham Road, SW3 6HY, who, first established on the King’s Road in 1927, moved to Fulham Road in 2018, where they now host over 30 exhibitions a year. Continuing until 29th August, the gallery’s current offering is their Summer Exhibition, an eclectic mix by established and emerging artists, including Max White (b. 1998), who this year was elected a member of The Wapping Group of Artists. Then, between 4th-9th September, London-based artist, Charlotte Sutton, will mount her second solo show at the gallery. Her impressive paintings of animals and flora are captured in photorealistic detail.

Off the Kings Road, is 20 Park Walk, SW10 0AQ and the gallery of Jonathan Cooper. Well-known for representing contemporary artists working in traditional techniques, the gallery celebrates 35 years of business by presenting a display of paintings, drawings and sculpture by 35 artists represented by the gallery. On view from 13th September – 7thOctober, the offerings include the skilful botanical watercolours of Fiona Strickland (b. 1956), the oil paintings of garden and wildflowers by Jane Wormell (b. 1960) and the bold, expressive images of animals by Devon-based Michael J. Austin (b. 1959).

Business longevity is also celebrated at The Redfern Gallery, 20 Cork Street, W1S 3HL. Founded in 1923 by Arthur Knyvett-Lee (1887-1974) and Anthony Maxtone Graham (1900-1971), the gallery’s first home was on the top floor of Redfern House in Bond Street. It was here, in 1924, the motivated dealers showcased the sculptures of students, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. In 1936 the gallery moved to Cork Street and in celebration of their illustrious history stage, until 1st September, an exhibition of carefully selected paintings and sculptures. On parade are 1930s linocuts by Sybil Andrews (1898-1992), abstract paintings by Paul Feiler (1918-2013), Adrian Heath (1920-1992), and Roger Hilton (1911-1975) and Leon Underwood’s (1890-1975) oil painting of 1923 Iceland’s All.

The excitement of the Ashes may be over, but we can cheer ourselves up with A Summer of Cricket, taking place at the Chris Beetles Gallery, 8 & 10 Ryder Street, St. James’s, SW1Y 6QB, until 2nd September. On display are over 60 cricket themed artworks, most of a comical nature, such as Henry Bateman’s (1887-1970) 1930s watercolour (£3,750) depicting a wicketkeeper frantically shouting, “How’s That”, while the distracted umpire, a glass of Guinness in hand, mutters, “Very refreshing!” More academic is James Butler’s (1931-2022), fine large bronze (£9,500) of W. G. Grace with a bat, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 2018. Prices start at a modest £150. Running alongside there are 60 oil paintings, the majority on the theme of cricket, by Jack Russell (b. 1963), the retired international cricketer.  

For us devotees of works of art it is always comforting to have a few forthcoming events pencilled in the diary, so here are four worthy nominees. The LAPADA Fair, Berkeley Square, W1J 6EN, which opens on 27th September and closes on 1st October, has over 100 specialist dealers, displaying quality works of art ranging from antiquities to modern designer furniture. The British Art Fair, taking place between 28th September – 1stOctober at the Saatchi Gallery brings together top dealers from London and the provinces tendering top-grade Modern British and Contemporary art. Finally, one of my favourites, The Decorative Fair, Evolution London, Battersea Park, SW11 4NJ. Running from 3rd – 8thOctober, the fair will have the bonus of Tribal Art London (TAL) – fifteen international dealers showcasing stunning objects drawn from Africa, Oceania, Asia, Europe and the Americas. I will, of course, be covering these events in detail in the September issue.

Anthony J. Lester, FRSA


About Author

Anthony Lester

Art and antiques has been Anthony's passion for over fifty years both as a collector, curator, journalist and broadcaster. He has written hundreds of articles for publications as diverse as Country Life and The Big Issue and has worked on BBC programs, including the Antiques Roadshow and Flog It! His books include The Stannards of Bedfordshire and Then and Now: Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. He is a member of the International Association of Art Critics, The Critics' Circle, Fellow of the Royal Society of British Artists, Honorary Member of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Companion of the Pastel Society, Life Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Life Member of Chelsea Arts Club.

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