When The Ned – a hotel and members’ club from the people who created Soho House – opened in London in 2017, part of its charm was a collection of artworks designed to challenge ideas of what a club located in the buttoned-up City of London be.
“In London, I decided to answer the preconceptions of what a neighborhood is like,” says Kate Bryan, global art director of Soho House & Co. “Who hangs out there? Will they all be guys of a certain age who smoke cigars? The Ned proved that there are a lot of interesting people in the city and they need a place to hang out that is thoughtfully made. So I decided that our art collection should reflect this discrepancy.
What Brian did was to prepare a collection of 100 works of art, 93 of which were made by women artists and seven of which were made by men, but only those that were in collaboration with women. It was a deliberate choice to reverse the gender inequality evident in business. “It was a progressive collection and really made a statement,” Brian explains. “I knew that when we were going to do Ned in New York, I had to think about inclusion and make it the backbone of the collection.”
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Now that Ned has opened in New York’s NoMad neighborhood, Brian has been able to execute his plan. “The New York collection is about the building,” she explains. “It was funded in 1903 by a woman, which was extremely unusual, and it was part of a time at the turn of the last century when people whose parents or grandparents were enslaved were business owners, when queer people were living openly in these bohemian lifestyles and women funded projects. The Harlem Renaissance was only a decade old. There was an amazing time when there were such progressive attitudes and New York was such a hotbed of them.
She continues, “During the rest of the century, however, many of these breakthroughs were induced. One hundred years later, we are still trying to reclaim that ground in many ways, so the collection, which is called A Different Century, has been prepared in response to this moment in history. We ask creators to think about what this past century could have been and what this one should be.”
The hotel has commissioned and acquired works by artists including Marilyn Minter, Mikalyn Thomas, David Wojnarowicz, Rasheed Johnson, Glenn Ligon and others to not only highlight Brian’s mission, but also add atmosphere to the space. Ned’s library boasts a sculpture by Zoë Buckman, Cecconi’s restaurant outpost features works by all-female artists, and even the front desk greets guests with works by Minter and Elliott Jerome Brown, Jr. – clearly showing devotion not only to established talent in the art world, but rising stars as well. “We always try to make it so that it has a big impact when you walk in…Hey, we have Lori Simmons in our lobby– but also to have layers that you can peel back over time,” she explains. “There are a few surprises.”
That’s something Soho House CEO Nick Jones is excited to share with guests. “New York is so special to me and has been an important part of our history at Soho House, and five years after launching The Ned London, we’re really excited to be able to bring The Ned NoMad to New York,” he says. “The Ned London has created a truly new destination in the heart of the city and I can’t wait to see the same happen in New York.”
For Brian, the artwork in the hotel tells a story about the building’s history, but also serves as a backdrop for the memories being made there today. “This place is a love letter to New York from the last century, and it’s exciting to put yourself in that context,” she says. “Everything feels good, but never so luxurious that one feels out of place. We want people to imagine that this is their art; it’s there because it’s a place where people can enjoy it.”
It’s Adam Reith City and ProvinceDeputy Features Director covering arts and culture and a range of other topics.