We caught up with celebrated chef, collector and art supporter Mark Hix at the Tramshed and HIX ART Gallery on Rivington Street. The building, founded in 1905, was an electricity generating station for trams and we are sitting under the unmistakable work of Damien Hirst, ‘Cock and Bull’ commissioned in 2012, of a Hereford cow and a cockerel preserved in formaldehyde in a giant steel and glass tank, which makes total sense given the menu is based on his original roasted chicken and steak concept! The Cock ‘n’ Bull was also the name of the original HIX ART Gallery that Mark opened at the same time.
After 18 years as Chef Director at Caprice Holdings Mark opened the first restaurant of his own, HIX Oyster & Chop House, over ten years ago and now has restaurants and cool bars all over town in Mayfair, Soho and Bankside as well as the HIX Bar at The Old Vic, Pharmacy at Newport Street Gallery, HIX Oyster & Fish House and the beautiful HIX townhouse in Lyme Regis. All have his trademark industrial chic, his cookbooks, artworks, curiosities and underlying British eclectic vibe.
Where did your love of art start?
When I worked for Corbin and King the last generation of artists Patrick Caulfield, Howard Hodgkin and Peter Blake all used to come to The Ivy restaurant and Chris Corbin and Jeremy King had many of their works on the walls so I got to know them. When I went out on my own and opened the Rivington Grill in Shoreditch in 2005, I took a leaf out of their book and started to do similar things with second wave of British artists. So with each restaurant I would ask artists to come and look at the space. At that time there was nowhere for artists to hang-out, so I used to host parties with younger galleries like Dicksmith and Carl Freedman and support the next generation of artists like Tim and Sue Webster, Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas, Abigail Lane all who lived within a mile of here.
The HIX AWARD is now in its 7th year, can you tell me how it came about?
When I opened Tramshed in 2012 the space downstairs didn’t have a licence so we hosted events and started showing unknown artists and a friend curated a little group show. So it went from there to becoming gallery with well-known artists curating a lesser known artist which they like doing because it’s more of an underground gallery supporting emerging artists. That’s how the Award started as a natural progression and by going to the art colleges and spreading the word. Artists really need a lucky break to get started and the winner receives a £10,000 cash prize which goes towards supporting the costs of their studio and a solo show here.
It’s a very well-regarded prize - who do you currently have on the committee?
The committee consists of a mixture of artists, gallery owners, creatives, collectors and each year committee members grow and some fall off but it gets better every year, we receive 700 to 800 entries and from that whittle it down to 40 and I sometimes go back to the one’s we’ve rejected because it is hard to tell from looking at a screen, so I might go and visit them in the studio, then it’s down to around 20 to get in final show.
Your selection has all nationalities represented including Africa, Middle East and Asia - what do you look for?
We try to include a good mixture of different media and artists from wide group from 18 up to mature students, there is no age barrier to enter even though the stakes are higher now – artists like Elizabeth Eades our latest winner is a good example. Many go on to great success like Award winners Sam Bailey and Danny Fox who was introduced by Sue Webster. The first winner, Nicholas Permain, was selected for the prestigious FBA Futures in 2015 and the second, Felix Treadwell, was named GQ’s ‘British Artist to Watch’ in 2017.
Cooking and art are endlessly symbiotic as sensory experiences and many artists use food for inspiration - how has art influenced you?
I get asked this quite a lot but not really except perhaps conceptually. Michael Craig-Martin has said my food is very similar to his work because it’s no more than 3 colours and I have no more than 3 ingredients on the plate and Bridget Riley said you come up with the ideas which are then translated in a similar way to how she works according to precise instructions.
Who would your significant woman artist be then?
I’ve got a lot of female artists in my collection - Bridget Riley, Rebecca Warren, Tracey Emin, Sara Lucas, Polly Morgan, Anya Gallaccio and a new NY artist called Stefanie Heinze – the only work of I have where I don’t know the artist, I just bought it on spec from Pippy Houldsworth and it’s is a great piece. It is great to see now so many more shows with women at Blain Southern, White Cube and Hauser & Wirth in Somerset.
Your style is blended like ingredients and inspired by many things, collecting not just of art but objects for your restaurants and homes, can you tell us more?
Interiors are something I fell into when I lived on Great Eastern Street, I did my own design in my apartment and then I do all the design for the restaurants, collecting reclaimed stuff from salvage yards and Ebay. Then I did the same for my apartment in Bermondsey, the house in Notting Hill and the nearly finished house in Dorset. I never hire an interior designer, I just do it myself - I suppose I do that instead of painting and drawing, it is a work in progress like collecting midcentury Stilnovo lights. I have art in each one of the restaurants for instant HIX Soho has a lots of mobiles as there is not much space on the walls, so when I opened I commissioned a group of artists to make mobiles - Michael Craig-Martin, Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas, Danny Chadwick and Anthony Gormley - some of them had never made mobiles in their lives some had and were quite on it.
HIX Award now open for submissions https://www.hixaward.com/
For more information please visit HIX ART www.hixart.co.uk
FEATURE BY CATHERINE LOEWE