Hidden in a quiet corner of Notting Hill, women with plumage milled around a white-fronted house; flanked by security guards, paparazzi and bohemians, sipping lavender lemonade and mingling. This might have appeared to be like any other gathering of arty celebrities and socialites, but this was the much-awaited launch of Heist, “London’s first anti-gallery”, billed as an immersive experience for lovers of fine art photography.
The aim of Heist is to smash down the barriers that many contemporary fine art photographers face when attempting to bring their work to the public, whether new to the scene or well-established. By collaborating with Heist’s founders (Mashael Al-Rushaid, J. Harry Edmiston and Anna Pia Lubinus) and displaying their work in this beautiful space, artists can bridge the divide between artists and collectors by selling their work directly as exclusive Heist prints and ultimately making their creations more accessible.
The inception of Heist was online. Edmiston and Lubinus (a couple, both with a strong background in business, photography and fine art investment) created heist-online in 2013, hand-picking artworks based on their photographic merit rather than reputation. Joining forces with Al-Rushaid, they focused on creating an “offline” counterpart in Linden Gardens featuring the most appreciated artworks from its online sister, where people could experience something a little out of the ordinary.
In addition to exhibitions from new and exciting international photographers, Heist wants the viewer to interact with their surroundings by experiencing performance art within the open space of the gallery, as well as tasting fine cuisine inspired by the artists and the exhibition itself.
Walking up the stairs of this beautiful residential property (clutching a glass of bubbly or lemony cocktail), you are surrounded by staggeringly powerful photographs, beautifully scented candles and roses. To the untrained eye, Heist is…well… a gallery. It’s not some parallel dimension where you experience vaporised art inhaled through your eyeballs (anti-gallery is a therefore somewhat pretentious term) – it is a series of actual rooms with actual photographs in them. However, there are also cosy bar areas and lounges, secret corners and balconies within this place; it’s as much built for socialising as it is for art appreciation. Heist is trying to step as far away from being a ‘white-cube gallery’ as it can. The house itself was buzzing and shimmering with people. In the spirit of Heist, various musicians such as Jackson Scott & Into the Moon were performing live, and samples of the food inspired by images and artists were shared around; cuts of pork garnished with flowers, miniature burgers, sea bass and pumpkin ravioli are just some examples.
Surroundings aside, Heist is excellently curated. There is an enormous variety of work on show: a man having a woollen brain haemorrhage; urban kaleidoscopes; 90s Kate Moss; a crown of nude women; striking neon angular architecture contrasted with ethereal Alaskan landscapes and hyper-real close-ups of everything from feathers to Bibles to skin. The selection is inspiring, original and invigorating, and can veer from disturbing to delicate from one photograph to the next. Even for non-collectors, it is a fantastic array of work. This is a place for eating, laughing, listening, discussion and debate.
The current exhibition can be viewed online at http://www.heist-online.com/store-exhibition/ as well as in person at the anti-gallery in Linden Gardens. In terms of purchasing, the prices range from approximately £400- £20,000 and beyond. This may put it beyond the reach of ‘accessible’ for some. Heist (as it was portrayed at the launch) was strongly impressive, but without visiting on a quieter afternoon, it remains to be seen how this translates into an anti-gallery experience for the casual passerby who is not a potential buyer. I however encourage you to take a look and discover Heist for yourself.