The Red Room, a new bar at The Connaught Hotel in London, is not, in fact, red. Its colorful name comes from its exciting collection of red, scarlet, and vermillion artworks by Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Holzer, Ti-a Thuy Nguyen, Trina McKillen, and its lone male artist, Brian Clarke. “Having such prominent artwork for the space really set the tone,” muses the bar’s designer, Bryan O’Sullivan. “We were inspired by the work to make the space feel like the living room of an art collector.” The visual effect is somewhere between a secret library in Clue and Alain Delon’s iconic apartment in Purple Noon.
The works on display were curated by the co-owner of the Maybourne Hotel Group, Paddy McKillen, who has spent years amassing this particular collection. McKillen bought “Scarlet Mist,” a hazy, emotive piece by Nguyen, at a 2018 auction. Above the central marble fireplace hangs “I Am Rouge,” a never-before-seen piece by Bourgeois, which was a serendipitous find: When McKillen mentioned his vision for The Red Room to Jerry Gorovoy, Bourgeois’ long-time assistant, Gorovoy brought up the painting, which was packaged for another exhibition, from a basement. McKillen purchased it then and there. The other Bourgeois piece in the collection, a small untitled hologram from a 1998 series, is like a portal to another red room, with a tiny, glowing, crimson chair visible. Also on exhibit is “Composition #8,” the only photograph in the mix, by Trina McKillen (sister of Paddy McKillen) and ‘Benghazi,’ a piece by Holzer, in which the artist used graphite and watercolor in brilliant shades of red to redact previously censored United States government documents.
Clarke’s Art Nouveau-esque stained glass panels served as the launchpad for O’Sullivan’s design plans. “We went and met with Brian in his incredible studio in West London and chatted through possible ideas for how the glass could look and how it might fit into curved arched plaster apertures,” O’Sullivan says. “They really command your attention and set the tone for the standard of the rest of the design.” The vibrant reds and blues of the glass are complemented by the muted palette of the room, with furniture and carpeting in pale pinks, dove blue, and sage green.
Just as thoughtfully curated as the art and decor is The Red Room’s menu. Wine is the focus at the bar, with particular attention, aptly, on their collection of lush reds. The Connaught’s wine cellar features over 3,000 different labels and over 30,000 bottles of wine, including a 1994 Petrus, and a 2016 Montrachet Grand Cru. Director of Mixology Agostino Perrone has also developed a capsule of six wine-based cocktails inspired by the bar’s impressive collection.
Opened just in time for the Frieze London Art Fair, the bar is an exciting addition to the city’s social fabric. Sure to become a place to see and be seen, the women-led art collection also ensures it’ll be a place to observe and contemplate.