Any of our guests looking up from their food and giving even the most cursory of glances about them will see that Balans Soho Society has more than a passing interest in art of a most distinctive nature. Not for us posters of women tennis players who, having seemingly forgotten their underwear are wandering off-court, presumably to find them or muscly men cradling a baby who looks frozen in abject terror. No. We favour a rather more bohemian approach when it comes to our interior decoration. For example, we’ve long featured the work of the incredibly talented artist, Yasemen Hussain in a number of our restaurants. Her subversive work references both the Victorian hobby of découpage and the dada and surrealist artists of the early 20th Century. As or interior designer, Simon Costin describes them – ‘they’re pulled from a Victorian dream or nightmare – depending on your point of view or how many cocktails you’ve imbibed…’
We were absolutely delighted to read that one of her influences – the fabulous Nigel Henderson – has a show opening at Tate Britain, running until the 5th April 2020. Henderson was a collector of images and pieces of text in order to activate them in different ways. He said: ‘I want to release an energy of image from trivial data. I feel happiest among discarded things … fragments cast casually from life, with the fizz of vitality still about them.’
Working from 1940 to the end of the 1970s his layered collages, visual scraps of British life set against images from history and other cultures are a fascinating exploration of the passing of time, the end of empire and our collective obsession with consumption and desire. They are as relevant today as they were when he made them.