When Soho House opens its third L.A. outpost at 1000 S. Santa Fe Ave. in spring 2019, the facility will reflect the arts district community around it. The Soho Warehouse, as it will be known, will include a gallery of text-based art to honor the city’s tradition of 'word' paintings ranging from works by Ed Ruscha to Shepard Fairey. No word yet from Soho’s head of collections, Kate Bryan, on which local mark makers will be featured, but West Hollywood artist Paul Davies will be also be making a contribution: painting the mural in the rooftop bar, a 17-by-7-foot acrylic on canvas triptych.
"The idea is to look at Los Angeles through a lens — sunset colors, deep blue and orange, tying it to films like Mad Max and O Brother, Where Art Thou? where there's a really high contrast between orange and teal," Davies reveals on a visit to his studio. The space is filled with acrylic canvases from past, present and future projects, painted using stencils cut from photos of classic mid-century modern houses in various environments, from forest to desert. "The specific house, I'm not sure. It's an idea, a hope, a vision of the future. To me, the most important element of those homes is what the future holds. It's a Utopian idea. It's what I want to come through in the painting."
In the five years Davies has been in Los Angeles, Palm Springs Art Museum, Laguna Art Museum and U.C. Irvine Institute and Museum for California Art all have acquired his work for their permanent collections. He counts rapper Lyrics Born and actors Bobby Cannavale and Rose Byrne among his collectors. A Davies work "was the first major piece they bought together," he says of the actor couple, whom he met through friends in his native Australia. He first met Bryan in Hong Kong, where she was working as an art dealer before taking the position with Soho House in 2016 and recruiting him to put his creative mark on the expanding brand.
Founded by CEO Nick Jones in 1995 in the Soho district of London as a club for creative types in film and media, Soho House became majority-owned by billionaire Ron Burkle in 2012, fueling an expansion to 71,000 members in 23 locations around the world. Jodie Foster, Matthew Rhys, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Amy Adams, Paul Haggis, Empire showrunner Danny Strong, and Girls showrunner Jenni Konner are all on the list at the West Hollywood branch, opened in 2010.
After a lengthy application and interview process, those approved by a membership committee pay annual dues ranging from $1,050 to $3,200, which grants access to most Soho House branches, each with its own unique aesthetic. "We work with the artists to reflect the artist community [at each location]. It's pretty site-specific, it's all about the actual history with the site," says Bryan, adding that DTLA's arts district sets a high bar. "They’re quite serious art patrons and we want the art to come first."
With his work hanging in Soho Houses in Barcelona, Mumbai, West Hollywood and the recently opened Dumbo House in Brooklyn, Davies and Bryan both have observed how each site impacts members' interaction with his work.
"It’s unique in that it's not a gallery, it's not for sale, it's not a museum, it operates in an unusual space. The audience is excellent cause they're all captive and receptive to it. So you can plug in events and have the artist be part of the fabric of the house," says Bryan as she anticipates Davies' mural. "When you do a big piece of art, everyone will remember it and it will be part of the shared experience of that new house. And I love the idea that it's up on the roof. It kind of reflects the city back on itself.'"