Fortnum & Mason isn’t exactly where you do the weekly shop, but it’s definitely the place to see art works free of charge at the moment.
For a month from 13 September, a selection of modern British paintings and sculpture from Frank Cohen’s collection are scattered through the store. There are two works by Leon Kossoff behind one of the ground floor cash tills, two paintings by Howard Hodgkin on the ground floor landing (best viewed as you come down the staircase) and an intriguing work – The Jury, by Reginald Brill – on the way to the first floor loos. I caught some of the sculptures when I was there at the weekend, but I want to go back when it’s quieter.
The backstory is intriguing. Apparently, Fortnum’s has been known to accept a painting in return for writing off a food bill. A former chairman wasn’t above hanging paintings on the shop walls after he’d bought them and was willing to sell them to customers – provided he made a small turn. And now they have 70 works from Frank Cohen’s collection on display. To be clear, they’re not for sale; it’s simply and wonderfully a fabulous opportunity to see works that aren’t usually accessible.
It’s an art-lover’s Pokemon – can you spot all of the works in the brochure? Personally, I expect I’ll miss some, even with the benefit of the floor plan and the pictures, but that says more about me than it does about the brochure.
Flicking through that, I’d very much like to see Byland Abbey, by John Piper – in the boardroom, but viewing by appointment and the phone number’s given in the brochure. And I must go back to see those Kossoffs and the luminous Howard Hodgkin paintings once more.
Even if you can’t visit when the store’s open, there are works in the windows. Enjoy – and thank you, Frank Cohen!