ArtMan: Art meets royalty at Kensington Palace


Kevin Wilson is back, just in time for the Jubilee and in royal company too. This time he’s showcasing two of the artworks from the newly refurbished Kensington Palace

As part of the Historical Royal Palaces portfolio, Kensington Palace often misses out to the well-trodden landmark attractions such as Tower of London and Hampton Court.

Perhaps there’s some confusion to it being a regular tourist destination as a palace, while also a living royal residence, but rest assured the two are kept very separate and when you visit you won’t walk through Will and Kate’s kitchen!

Saying that, the anticipated visitor figures of over 400,000 a year still means the palace is firmly on the visitor route.

It’s a princess of a palace too, and showcases tradition with a twist.

Twelve million pounds was spent on its refurbishment recently, and the Historical Royal Palaces committee decided a permanent, focal public art work was needed in the main entrance foyer.

With my arts consultant hat on I was commissioned to explore what artwork could be installed. This involved scouring the globe for likely candidates and putting together a smorgasbord of options for consideration.

An intensive international interview process resulted. The list was a wide ranging combination of  major international players, developing artists and cutting edge creatives. Together, the amazing curatorial team at the palace and I  ruminated and debated the merits of each artist and their design proposals.

It’s important stuff deciding what goes into a prominent part of one of England’s preserved prizes and over many cups of tea and many pieces of cake the long list of artists was slowly whittled down. 

To the palace curators this was akin to deciding what type of extension to build on their home. Passion and care exuded.

Quite boldly, the decision was made to go with artists Loop.ph

Based in Stoke Newington, husband and wife team Loop.ph did a remarkable job of ticking all the boxes. The resulting  artwork was borne out of an exploration of the palace’s lace collection.

Husband and wife artist duo Loop.ph’s artwork inspired by the palace’s lace collection

Husband and wife artist duo Loop.ph’s artwork inspired by the palace’s lace collection

Husband and wife artist duo Loop.ph’s artwork inspired by the palace’s lace collection

The chosen lace patterns were mapped out in morphing electroluminescent wire and  the design sculpted to fit the space.

Of course it is way more complex than that, but the result is an artwork that oscillates in flickering light patterns bringing the textile history of the palace alive and into the present and future.

Hopefully the Queen, who opened the refurbished palace liked the artwork (you never can really tell), but generally, across the board, the blue glowing lace spiders web has enthralled and wowed.

Loop.ph’s work is just one of many new creative touches to the palace.  Not quite so prominent,  but equally as magical, is the stunning wallpaper by fashion illustrator and artist Julie Verhoeven

Julie has exhibited widely as an artist and worked with many of the fashion greats as an illustrator capturing fashion collections and characters in her quirky defined style. 

How cool of the palace curators to commission Julie to create a wallpaper aide-memoire to Princess Diana? 

Key moments in the princess’ history are captured perfectly and memorably. This IS how we remember Diana, the quirky artist brings Diana’s quirky beauty, mannerisms and style back to life.

The Diana wallpaper @Julie Verhoeven

The Diana wallpaper @Julie Verhoeven

The Diana wallpaper @Julie Verhoeven

Of course Kensington Palace hasn’t reopened solely as an art gallery, they are still very much in the business of presenting our heritage in a wonderful way. Of the main exhibits one stands out.

In Victoria Revealed, interpretation manager Alexandra Gaffikin does a wonderful job of showing us the corners of Queen Victoria’s life, bringing her back to watch us all walk from room to room.

The four main exhibition areas are Victoria Revealed, a new permanent exhibition exploring the life and reign of one of the palace’s most famous residents, Queen Victoria; Diana: glimpses of a modern princess, a small temporary display of five dresses worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, running until 2 September 2012; The King’s State Apartments with new displays and a new game of court to take part in if you wish; the Queen’s State Apartments which has a more modern and theatrical display to tell the story of William and Mary up to George I.

And also, from 24 May to 4 November, there will also be Jubilee: a view from the crowd – a temporary exhibition telling the story of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897.

Oh and one last thing, when visiting be sure to check out the new Jaeger designed staff uniforms. The smart attention to detail raises the bar for the visitor experience.  

Kensington Palace is part of the Historical Royal Palaces: Opening times Monday – Saturday from 10.00 – 18.00. Last admission 17.00.

Kevin Wilson is an international arts consultant, curator and collector. He advises on collections, investments and projects. His clients range from the Historical Royal Palaces, international corporations, private individuals and collections worldwide. He is also director of the public art agency Artpoint and one half of fashion designer duo Vin and Omi  www.kwart.co.uk www.artpointtrust.org.uk  www.vinandomi.com