Portrait by Elodie Nizon
As company director of Messum’s London, Johnny Messum, joined the family-run business in 1999 after studying History of Art at Edinburgh University and working at Christie’s. Since his arrival, he has taken the company into new ventures starting new collections and building relationships with overseas galleries and museums on behalf of Messum’s artists and artist estates.
Johnny is also chairman of DegreeArt London, the UK leader in contemporary affordable art online, and is a board member of Browns Hotel London Art Weekend (BLAW). As part of next month’s edition, Johnny will be waxing lyrical about art in the Sixties during his guided tour of four select Mayfair galleries. (See http://www.brownslondonartweekend.com for more details).
Meanwhile, in addition to its recently restored Cork Street gallery and sculpture garden in Marlow, the pioneering gallerist is also behind Messum’s Wiltshire, a space dedicated to contemporary sculpture. Set in a 14th Century Monastic Barn, the largest of its type in the country, Johnny’s longer term vision is that Messum’s Wiltshire will become a leading cultural institution in the South West of England, showcasing modern and contemporary art, design and performance, whilst also providing educational lectures and workshops as part of its exhibitions and events programme throughout the year. To celebrate the opening of this new experience-led retail space, things kick off this August, with a show featuring the work of David Linley.
As well as spotting great art, Johnny also has an eye for fine jewellery and a well-made shirt – not to mention a good seafood risotto. Here, he lists some of his favourite haunts in and around Bond Street below:
Richard Green, 32-33 New Bond Street
When I am walking Bond Street I will always stop in to see what Richard Green is doing, he is my father’s generation, but someone I respect a great deal for the way that he studies and understands quality.
The Royal Academy and Cork Street
For all its incredible array of shops, my Mayfair is about people. I run a generational business and know how much evolution contributes to success. It is the personalities that drive this. The Pollen Estate, for example, are taking on a massive redesign of Cork Street, a true once in a generation moment, and there are people like James Andrews working on that project who have been involved for over 15 years. Likewise, the Royal Academy under Charles Saumarez Smith is taking the bold and longstanding decision to expand and open to the North into Burlington Gardens. I feel very proud that our family business will continue to represent artists on Cork Street for the foreseeable future.
Petrocchi Sede Unica, 36 Albemarle Street
Petrocchi Sede Unica, for breakfast or lunch. This family-run Italian eatery is always busy in that sort of New York way. It gets packed at the entrance but squeeze through, and if you know Francesca, you are in. If you don’t, good luck getting a table. One thing is certain though. You have to have the seafood risotto with a glass of Gavi di Gavi.
Budd Shirtmakers, 3 Piccadilly Arcade
Ok, so not my everyday shopping experience (which part of Mayfair is?) but a really terrific old school shop with a twist. My experience started with some vouchers given to the family for Christmas. I bought all of my brothers vouchers at a discount rate, converted them into cash, which is what interested them more at the time, and then purchased some fabulous shirts.
Boodles, 178 New Bond Street
Boodles is a flagship British jewellery business, evolving through the generations and full of wonderful details. Here, jewellery is thought and rethought for the current taste. James Amos, now marketing director, is your man. He still has time to talk you through the presentations.
John Mitchell Fine Paintings, 17 Avery Row
Again, a unique family business in Mayfair – the Mitchell family has been involved with paintings and art for generations. Speak to Paul Mitchell about frames, James and William about British pictures, and immerse yourself in their depth of knowledge and enthusiasm for their subject. Modern retailing it is not, expertise it certainly is.