Saturday, Apr 01, 2017
by WonderStreet
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WonderStreet Interview with Cristina Cellini Antonini, founder of ARTROOMS.

From January 20 to January 23, the rooms of the Meliá White House hotel in the charming Regent’s Park area of London will be transformed into an exhibition space featuring the work of 70 different artists from all around the world. The show is called ARTROOMS and has been offering artists and collectors the chance to interact face-to-face in a somewhat unconventional space since its foundation in 2015. Each artist will have the opportunity to transform one room into a showcase of their individual work. We spoke with Cristina Cellini Antonini, founder and art-director of ARTROOMS, to ask her a few questions about this exhibition.

The Donna Criminale project, by Ulla Karttunen

Could you please tell us a bit more about the reasoning behind the unique concept of showcasing artwork in the bedrooms of a hotel?

When I started my career in London, I realized very early on that independent artists did not have a prominent voice in the London cultural scene. I wanted to create an event that put artists back at the heart of the art market and I knew that I would need a “non-conventional” exhibition space, something that would allow artists the freedom to create their own environment, and at the same time, offer visitors a real art experience. Usually art fairs are held in pavillons, but I thought that while a booth may be ideal for a gallery, it could be overwhelming for an artist. Artists are not used to confronting the market (especially sales-wise), hence meeting buyers can become very awkward. Not all, but some artists are very sensitive and need to be preserved from the crowd. A hotel room is like home. Artists and visitors immediately find that sort of intimacy. To me, the relationship between the artist and the art collector is almost a matter of investigation! In fact, this year I will present “Open Letter to the Art Collector,” an installation or to say it better... a first intriguing experiment.

Meliá White House is providing 70 bedrooms for the show. Why did you choose this particular hotel and how did you convince them to host the event?

After speaking with several hotels, the Meliá White House turned out to be the ideal venue. It not only has large exhibition spaces worthy of a museum-level showcase, but, in addition, it is located in the vibrant Fitzrovia Art District. The hotel is also very well connected, with three underground stations and two main train stations within a 5-minute walk. This connects the venue to Europe and all major UK cities, allowing us to attract a wider audience every year.The meeting with Gioele Camarlinghi (General Manager of Meliá White House) was absolutely decisive. He is a man with a vision and is a great art enthusiast. Thanks to his support and the effort of the team, we are able to deliver a great event, with over 800 artworks being set up in less than 12 hours. Also, to further demonstrate the hotel’s commitment to the arts, since 2016 we have launched “The MWH Collection,” acquiring two sculptures by Gloria Sulli, which are currently displayed in the garden on Longford Street (which is a side street from Albany Street, where Melia White House is based)

In 2015, you still had galleries showcasing alongside independent artists. In 2016, you made the show exclusive to independent artists and this was a huge success. Was it easy to convert galleries from using the event as a showcase into using it as a hunting ground for new talent?

It wasn't easy and still isn’t. Like every new idea, it takes time. As far as we are aware, we are the only fair worldwide that supports artists by giving them this kind of access to the market. We run the fair simultaneously with the London Art Fair, because our biggest challenge is facilitating the dialogue between the artist and the art gallery. Presenting artists from all over the world, ARTROOMS has become a hunting ground, especially for UK galleries. In the future, we are planning to expand this concept, providing art galleries a proper “scouting” service with market trends.

How do you fund the show?

Well... That’s a very good question, thank you. The fair is funded by myself, Francesco Fanelli (Co-director of ARTROOMS) and Chiara Canal (Deputy Director). Fortunately, we also have amazing partners and sponsors, who all share our vision. The fair has a philanthropic approach and all the organizations and companies involved know that their commitment guarantees the artists not only exhibition spaces, but also PR, a year-long marketing campaign, connections and more. We are evaluating the possibility of creating an Artist Award. Hopefully, in the future, we will have more organizations within our group, such as Foundations and Corporate Collections, to help us fund it.

Just like the previous years, you will be covering different categories: installations, paintings, photography, sculptures, drawings, digital art and video art to name just a few. How have you assigned the number of rooms available for each of the categories?

Rooms are divided into geographical areas, actually. This edition’s sections are: UK, Europe, Canada and The Americas, Far and Middle East. Sections are only decided once we receive the results from the Selection Committee. All media are accepted, including photography and video art.

Collection of a magpie by Alice Padovani

Beauty Full by Victor Sonna

Black Birds by Maya Gelfman

We heard that you might be expanding to different countries. When would this happen and will it be the same concept?

There has been some news about expanding the ARTROOMS abroad and we have flattering offers from the Far East and the U.S. But one step at the time. We prefer to focus on the London Edition for now!

Thank you very much for your time, Cristina. It sounds like it’s going to be an exciting event again! This year, 28 European artists, 19 artists from the UK, 8 artists from Asia, 1 from Israel, 1 from Turkey and 11 from the Americas and Canada will participate in the ARTROOMS event. In addition to showcasing the talent of these artists, a series of workshops will also be presented. The exhibition will open with an invitation-only VIP event on January 20 and will be open to the public from January 21 to January 23. The address of the Meliá White House hotel is Albany St, Regent's Park, NW1 3UP London.

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