Inside Soho House West Hollywood’s refreshed art collection
To mark the 20-year anniversary of Soho House in North America, discover new works that reflect the stellar rise of the LA art scene over the past two decades
Thursday 14 September 2023 By Anastasiia Fedorova
This month, we’re celebrating 20 years of Soho House in North America. While the story started on the East Coast with Soho House New York, it certainly didn’t end there. Los Angeles has been a special destination since Soho House West Hollywood opened on Sunset Boulevard in 2010 (three more Houses followed: Little Beach House Malibu, Soho House Holloway and Soho Warehouse in Downtown LA). With a rooftop garden overlooking the Hollywood Hills, perfect for sipping your Soho Sunset, Soho House West Hollywood has become closely linked to the city’s creative scene and, more recently, Los Angeles’ stellar rise as the world’s new global art capital.
In 2023, Kate Bryan, Soho House’s Global Director of Art, curated two entirely new collections for Soho House New York and Soho House West Hollywood. For the latter, she was set on reflecting the essence of the city through local art, focusing on artists born, based or trained in LA.
Here, Bryan delves deeper into her vision for the refresh, the artists in the collection, and what it was like working in the unique atmosphere of our West Hollywood outpost.
What was the main guiding principle when you were creating the new collection for Soho House West Hollywood?
‘With this collection, we kept a very strict rule, which is that artists have to be born, based or trained in LA. It was really important, because the collection that we took out was largely international. I think that’s really testament to the fact that when we opened in LA, it didn’t have an international art scene. It wasn’t yet on everybody’s list as a contemporary art hub. There wasn’t Frieze LA, there wasn’t the same kind of appetite. There weren’t as many commercial galleries there; now you have international galleries like Hauser & Wirth. The landscape has changed and it’s an exciting moment for LA.
‘It’s always had a very strong West Coast scene, but global art had been dominated by the East Coast. That’s all changed, particularly in the past five years. There are more galleries and more artists working in LA, and really serious work being made there. We just needed to reflect that in our art collection.’
Did you keep any pieces from the original collection?
‘There is one exception – a painting by Harland Miller that’s been there since it opened. It became the kind of emblem of the House. It’s a Penguin book cover, which is a very famous series of his, and it says, “This Is Where Its F**kin At. Least It Used To Be”. He has a great kind of deadpan British humour that everybody loves. When we said we were changing the art, our members just kept asking, “are you keeping the Harland Miller?” So, we knew that we’d have to break our rules because Miller is British, but I think sometimes things transcend their nationality and become an icon.’
What are some of your highlights from the collection?
‘We’ve put in a lot of large-scale paintings and photography. One area has got an older generation of artists, in recognition of where LA art has come from. We have works by Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, Judy Chicago, Billy Al Bengston, and Ed Kienholz. It was very much about the incubators of the LA art scene. And then they were joined by a host of really young new talent, like Ken Taylor, Muna Malik, Parker Ito, and Tidawhitney Lek.’
What did you like most about the process?
‘It was really fun to do this, as Soho House West Hollywood is a glamorous club. It’s our penthouse in LA and is well loved. To go there in the middle of the night, take all these works down and then have the members come in the next morning [to a new collection] is great.
‘We’re really happy now that we’ve got a collection that really speaks of the contemporary art scene in LA and how exciting it is. It’s a more inclusive collection as well, representing people of colour, women artists and those from the LGBTQIA2S+ community.’
Was there anything special about the interior or atmosphere of Soho House West Hollywood that you had to take into account?
‘The natural light in the House is quite extraordinary. It means that you have a slightly easier job as a curator, because you’re not worried about pieces being seen properly. I think one of the challenging things about curating that House was that we had these huge panels, which historically just had art in the middle of them, so we had to find really big things to fill them. We needed works that were 170cm tall, which isn’t what people usually give us. When you’re curating in a place like Soho House West Hollywood, you’re always mindful that the building, ethos and design are distinct, and you have to make sure the art is also distinct.’
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