Over recent years, the Gallery at Sketch restaurant has been synonymous with the colour pink, thanks to the candy floss-coloured creation that artist David Shrigley concocted there back in 2014. But that’s all about to change, as the Mayfair restaurant has handed the reins over to project architect India Mahdavi and British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare to transform the space with a complete makeover, redesigning the room in a symphony of yellows and golds to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
For the Gallery space at Sketch restaurant, Shonibare has followed in the footsteps of Shrigley and Turner Prize winner Martin Creed to create 14 new site-specific works in his signature aesthetic, which have been designed as a powerful celebration of African culture and its legacy. Entitled ‘Modern Magic’ (a nod to the theme of Shonibare’s Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy last year, ‘Reclaiming Magic’), the installation will include four hand-painted masks carved from wood and 10 framed quilts that replicate African masks found in Pablo Picasso’s collection. The masks are replicas of those originally used by African peoples to conjure up new powers and realms, which have long inspired Western artists due to their spiritual connotations.
“After Matisse showed Picasso African art for the first time, it changed the history of modern art,” says Shonibare. “Picasso was interested in appropriating from another culture, and I also appropriate from European ethnic art. Cultural appropriation can be a two-way street. This collaboration with Sketch has given me an opportunity to expand my creative process – creating a different environment to encounter and experience my art in a fun and relaxing setting.”
When it came to finding someone to rework Sketch restaurant’s iconic pink colour scheme, founder Mourad Mazouz knew that colour master India Mahdavi was the only person he trusted with the job. The French-Iranian architect and designer has turned the space into a sunshine-yellow haven, infused with golden light and featuring new copper toned custom-made banquets. These sit alongside unique pieces designed by African craftspeople hand-picked by Mahdavi, including Senegalese fabrics produced by textile designer Aissa Dione and hand-made wall lights by Inès Bressand, who works with weavers in Ghana. The walls, meanwhile, are lined with copper de Gournay wallpaper and the ceiling painted in a Mandarine au Lait shade, a colour created by Mahdavi herself and referenced in her famous ‘Flowers’ colour range for chic Parisian decorative painters Mériguet-Carrère.
“The Gallery at Sketch restaurant has been linked to the colour pink for such a long time that it was very challenging for me to overcome this success,” says Mahdavi. “Yinka’s artwork was a real inspiration and enticed me to work differently in this new version of the Gallery. Now textures will transcend colours with metallic copper wallpaper, Aissa Dione’s textured fabric and Inès Bressand’s woven wall-lights. These are elements that have allowed me to extend Yinka’s artistic exploration of culture and identity and bring a warm feel of Africa to the space and furnishings.”
There’s a new addition to the menu, too, with chef Pierre Gagnaire creating a special dish in homage to Shonibare. Yinka Rice is a dish of West African Jollof rice scented with ginger and cumin, served with spicy tomato and soya sauce and roasted plantain. To accompany it, bar director Luca Fugazza has created a new cocktail, the Yinka Zobo, made with dark rum plantation, pineapple liqueur, lime juice, honey syrup, ginger beer and Zobo mix, which is made from the hibiscus flower which Shonibare recalls from his childhood.
Even Sketch restaurant’s staff uniforms have been given an update, with London-based French designer Sonia Taouhid creating bespoke outfits that reflect the restaurant’s cheerful new colour scheme. The standout piece is a romantic violet dress featuring Taouhid’s signature frills, streaked with golden yarn in a nod to the sun-filled surroundings. The restaurant will also be debuting new ceramic tableware designed by Shonibare and manufactured by British heritage brand Caverswall, which will be used to serve the restaurant’s perennially popular afternoon tea and dinner services.
“I was very afraid to change the pink room as David Shrigley is a part of Sketch,” reveals the restaurant’s proprietor, Mourad Mazouz. “Then I was introduced to Yinka Shonibare, and I thought, my God, the master himself wants to work with Sketch. It was like I was dreaming. Yinka’s work is so powerful, intelligent, and mythical, and I am so pleased to share it with sketch’s visitors from all over the world.”
Sketch, 9 Conduit Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 2XG