Cedar Lewisohn meets chef, restaurateur and art collector Mark Hix as he continues his journey into the art/food crossover.
I was cycling from my house to the studio, thinking about what I was going to write for the latest column, when my phone rang – always annoying when you’re on the bike. I stopped and scrambled for the phone: it was Louisa Buck calling. Louisa is The Art Newspaper’s top journalist and everything I consider a proper art writer should be. She gets the juicy stories and the dirt, and everybody loves her. Anyway, Louisa was on the line: “Darling…” (all Louisa’s questions begin with “Darling…”) “I’m doing an article about where artists eat and drink these days; what do you think?” I tell Louisa: “I’m right, at this very moment, contemplating a very similar subject,” “ That’s because we’re both bang on Zeitgeist”, she says. From me, Louisa wants some South London artists’ haunts. I suggest a couple and we say goodbye. I cycle on. Before I get to the studio I stop at one of my favourite Jamaican take-aways and pick up some Oxtail stew with rice and peas. I was pleased to learn that chef Mark Hix is also a fan of Jamaican take-away suppers when I spoke to him recently at his new Shoreditch restaurant, Tramshed. They have an extremely simple menu (steak or chicken, plus a veggie option), but everything is done to absolute perfection and with the nest ingredients. I was actually there to talk art with Mr Hix – it’s a subject he knows well. A whacking great Damian Hirst sculpture, ‘Cock’n’ Bull’, takes pride of place in Tramshed’s vast dining hall – a trademark formaldehyde- filled vitrine containing a bull with a rooster on its head. It looks amazing and sets the whole tone of the restaurant; it’s fucking contemporary and the best in the fucking world – those signature YBA values which have slightly gone out of fashion. Mark tells me he commissioned the work as soon as he saw the restaurant at building-site stage. “I sent Damian a text asking if he wanted to do it. A couple of days later I got a mock-up image back and we had it made.” I wish commissioning artworks had been that easy when I worked at the Tate! After talking some more with Mark about the history of food in London’s art world, we go up to his office and he shows me his impressive library of cookery books. Under a Perspex box in the corner is a very beautiful book by Andy Warhol which illustrates recipes by the artist’s mother. Mark also tells me how he once made a recipe in collaboration with Bridget Riley. We finish up talking about the food at private views. I make a bad joke about cheese and pineapple on sticks, but Mark responds that he’s quite into ‘retro’ food fashions, and that he recently did cheese and pickled walnut for an opening. Anyway, I’m back in the studio now and the Oxtail is all gone. It dawns on me that last Friday night I’d ended up in The JFK snooker hall in Peckham. JFK’s has recently become popular among the trendy young things for late night drinks and dancing. Catch it on the right night and you’re bound to find several of London’s future art stars pogoing on the dance floor or smoking roll-ups just outside the entrance. I call Louisa Buck back and mention JFK’s; she asks if they do food, and I say, “Maybe a packet of peanuts”. “Perfect, darling” she says. “ That’s exactly what I was looking for.
-CEDAR LEWISOHN 2012