London is full of surprises. The Trafalgar Hotel, which
is part of the Hilton group, is one them. Situated in Trafalgar Square,
it faces The National Gallery, Nelson’s Column and the square’s
lions which sit guarding the capital’s epicentre.
In January 2005 the hotel’s bar and restaurant underwent major refurbishment. They had also initiated an art programme coordinated by the hotel’s creative director Sam Lim, who gave us the opportunity to curate an exhibition and launch the hotel’s newly refurbished Rockwell bar and restaurant. A far cry from our previous show ‘Revolution’ and although only a few miles away from the east end, a totally different world.
The new interiors for the bar and restaurant were the work of Erik Nissen Johansen of Swedish firm Stylt Trampoli. The
lobby’s walnut floor had been re waxed and polished and finished with an assortment of white lacquer tables.
‘Gigolo’ had been a deliberately ‘tongue in cheek’ title for a show taking place in a hotel. We wanted the exhibition to become part of the fabric of the hotel’s appearance yet seem ‘out of place’, much like a gigolo would, loitering in a hotel’s bar, In the end, as the night before the opening approached, it seemed that ‘Mission Impossible’ would have been more apt.
Walls seemed to be appearing and disappearing, tables and furniture kept arriving and not a single screw could be fixed to a wall without authorisation and supervision by the hotel’s technician, who on that day went home at 8.00pm.
The show was hung the following day a few hours before it opened.
Ever since the first TRAILER we had developed a habit for aiming to finish the ‘hanging’ of a show, the day before the opening for two reasons. Primarily, it allows for the show to ‘settle’ and necessary changes to be made and secondly, on that occasion Iwona Blawswick from the Whitechapel Gallery had requested an early visit the day before this first TRAILER’s opening.
Finally at six o’clock the day of the opening we had a show.
Jo Evans a piano player who we met busking at Piccadilly Circus tube station had been enlisted to add a ‘cocktail hour’ atmosphere to this opening. The hotel, much to our surprise, laid out a lavish assortment of food and drinks beyond all expectations. Free champagne and four different types of cocktails adorned the bar. If you wanted, you could also ask for a beer.
Few of us had experienced anything like it and at 10.00 pm as if an urban tale of cinderella had come to an end, a pay bar announced it was time to go home. But should you wish to stay, two large whiskies could be enjoyed for £26.00, as a visitor to the show found much to his surprise.
As we stood on the the roof terrace of the hotel with a magnificent panoramic view of London, we realized that whilst its streets may not be paved with gold, that night had been a triumph of the will in this journey into the unknown.