Magazine article The Spectator

Outside Artland

Magazine article The Spectator

Outside Artland

Article excerpt

Over the past few months, a building on the wrong side of Soho has been discreetly reinventing itself by virtue of the personalities who have begun to inhabit it. The graffiti artist Banksy -- every Londoner feels that they 'own' their local Banksy -- has leased one floor of the large, white, double-fronted building that sits opposite the guitar-led mysteries of Tin Pan Alley.

On the floor below, the eradefining photographer Rankin has planned a six-month rotation of exhibitions to showcase various aspects of his work.

Next door, Clare de Roen (lately of Zwemmer), has installed her intricately sourced and beautifully edited art and photography bookshop in a nook behind the staircase. Johnny Sarpong, the hairdresser who grooms sirens such as Sienna Miller and Brad Pitt, has carved out a closed-off styling studio for himself. Downstairs, David de Rothschild, the youngest Briton ever to reach both geographical poles, has set up a space in which to show environmentally aware artists and equipped another area in which his educational brainchild, Adventure Ecology, can seek to turn the minds of the young towards the plight of the planet. In the basement lies Soho Books, one of a chain of licensed sex shops. Naturally, somewhere amid this display of contrasts, there is a bar.

The Gallery has come together under the watchful eye of London's most unlikely curator. Jamie Poulton is a smart, handsome wide boy who left Dulwich College in the 1980s and went into the city, leaving after three years to run Greenwich market.

In the mid-1990s he became a restaurateur and had considerable success.

Randall & Aubin on Brewer Street came first, followed by a larger, sloanier sister establishment on Fulham Road. He owns the Ifield, a gastropub in Chelsea, and recently sold another one, in Belsize Park, to the Australian Pan-Asian food professional Will Ricker.

Jamie's father (formally owner of most of Soho's sex cinemas and still proprietor of the 13 Soho bookshops which sell conventional reading on the ground floor and spicier stuff below) bought The Gallery building with a view to opening a sex department store. But Banksy's management approached Jamie through a mutual connection with the popular erotic photographer Bob Carlos Clarke, who was killed by a train earlier this year. …

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