Art | Need To Now

An exhibition of unusual presents for culture vultures

Scarves and screen prints at the House of Voltaire seasonal pop-up

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An exhibition of unusual presents for culture vultures

November 21 2012
Beatrice Hodgkin

The House of Voltaire, a Christmas pop-up shop run by Studio Voltaire (one of London’s most dynamic independent contemporary arts institutions), is destined for the Little Black Book – cross-filed under Seasonal Delights, Unusual Presents, Art and Fun. For those who have yet to discover its festive charms, it is a great place to find gifts for tricky-to-buy-for culture vultures, as well as an eye-opening and curious exhibition in its own right.

Studio Voltaire is a creative engine room where artists (about 45 at one time) are given studio space to unleash their ideas and energy without constraint or limitation. A fundamental springboard for many of the UK’s most innovative stars (including feminist performance artist Spartacus Chetwynd, nominated for this year’s Turner Prize), it nurtures emerging talents at a pivotal stage in their careers. The seasonal pop-up (Wednesday November 21 to Saturday December 15) supports their endeavours. It sells works from £1 to £40,000 crafted by the studio’s celebrated alumni and supporting artists, while creative luminaries such as writers and curators man the tills.

This year, shopkeepers include the actor James Franco, design critic Alice Rawsthorn, arts patron and collector Valeria Napoleone, model Lily Cole and culinary couple Fergus and Margot Henderson. 6a Architects has transformed an Edwardian stable in Mayfair for the event, and sale highlights include a pop-art silk scarf by Mark Titchner (first picture, £120), portfolio of four beautiful hand-tinted etchings of clocks with brightly coloured feathers by Pablo Bronstein (£1,600), beach towel by Julie Verhoeven (£75), jolly canvas tote by Jeremy Deller (second picture, £30) and bandana by artist/musician Linder and fashion designer Richard Nicoll (£80), following their sellout collaboration for House of Voltaire in the inaugural show of 2010.

This is the place to come for an unusual off-list Christmas shopping spree, where the unexpected is king and every purchase is more than just a present – it’s an act of cultural philanthropy.