Antonia Marsh Takes Her Art Underground

“When you start something new, you have to get used to asking for help.” Art dealer, curator and founder of Soft Opening—a gallery inside Piccadilly Circus underground station—Antonia Marsh shows us around her home and office in London Fields and tells us about her fondness for the tube.

I have two kinds of days: office days or meeting days. Because the gallery is a tiny vitrine tucked underneath Piccadilly Circus, it’s not the most inviting workspace, so I work from my office at home in London Fields. If I’m in town for meetings or studio visits, I try and pack them all together.

Whatever kind of day I have ahead, I always start with my favourite 7 am yoga class, every weekday at Stretch on Broadway market, then I wander home with coffee. I always lurk outside Donlon Books with my coffee and peer through the windows before it’s open to see if they have anything new in stock. If I’m working from the office at home, I usually only nip out if I’m going to the framers: I always use We Are Facility in Dalston for my shows.

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At home I attempt to make lunch, and if I’m meeting a collector or an artist at the gallery, I usually take them for lunch at Rose Bakery, my favourite spot on the top floor of Dover Street Market. It’s like an oasis of calm in the middle of town, and they do a life-changing carrot cake.

I always take the tube everywhere, it’s the best place for people watching and listening to music or reading, weirdly I find the tube quite meditative—but that might have something to do with the fact that I always deliberately avoid rush hour. Good luck arranging a meeting with me before 10 am! Evenings I usually have events—openings or dinners related to work—and if not then I’m at home and in bed by 10 pm with a book. I’m trying to read fewer art books these days, apparently that’s supposed to be more relaxing. I used to fervently believe that reading anything that wasn’t work-related was a waste of my time, but now that I have reached my thirties I’m beginning to see that was a naive idea.

Studio visits are without a doubt my favourite part of any day, if I’m lucky enough to have one planned. I can switch off my phone and focus on the artist. My lovely assistant Rose is endlessly supportive, and I’m constantly in touch with artists in preparing for their shows at the gallery and other projects. I’m lucky enough to have lots of friends in the art world—curators, gallerists—who I always chat to about ideas or ask their advice. When you start something new, you have to get used to asking for help, it’s the only way to keep things manageable and to stay humble. I love advising my collectors too, I guess thinking about it I do a lot of talking!

 

The gallery sits in the centre of Mayfair, an area associated with business, commerce, commercial galleries and shopping, so for me as a young gallery it was a particularly interesting environment to situate myself in. Most new galleries avoid the centre for various reasons but I wondered how we could circumvent these—showing in a tube station shop space was the solution we came to. Hundreds of thousands of people go past Soft Opening every month so what we lose in square feet we gain in audience!

I used to live in New York, so compared to there London is much slower-paced, which suits me, but there’s so much in the area! Soho is right around the corner, so I always go to Duck Soup or Bar Italia if I’m hungry and it’s so easy to get to openings. Or if I need to reboot, I like to wander down to the National Gallery for a peek at the old masters. Call me traditional.

Photography by Benjamin McMahon

Débora Delmar, Corporate Façades

Until 23 September at Unit 7, Piccadilly Circus Station, London

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