The Audley: a first look inside Artfarm’s new art-filled Mayfair pub

For its first London project, hospitality company Artfarm has given new life to the 18th-century Audley Public House which opens today in Mayfair. We offer a first look inside the new pub, which is a hub for history, community, hospitality and world-class contemporary art

Inside The Audley Public House, Artfarm's first London project, which includes a striking ceiling installation by British artist Phyllida Barlow
Inside The Audley Public House, Artfarm’s first London project, which includes a striking ceiling installation by British artist Phyllida Barlow
(Image credit: Sim Canetty-Clarke)

The Audley, in Anglo Saxon, means ‘the old friend’, an apt name for a pub that has proudly occupied a prime corner plot in the heart of London’s Mayfair since 1888. 

Now, this old friend has been given new life by Artfarm, the hospitality and development company founded in 2014 by gallerists Manuela and Iwan Wirth, and whose rapidly-expanding portfolio now includes The Fife Arms in Braemar, Scotland, the Roth Bar & Grill at Hauser & Wirth’s art centre in Somerset, the Manuela restaurant in Los Angeles, and the upcoming revival of London’s storied Groucho Club. 

Far from a run-of-the-mill facelift, The Audley will offer three distinct, art-led experiences: a street-level public house (now open), the first-floor Mount St Restaurant and four spaces on the upper three floors which will be available for private hire and will open this Autumn. 

The Audley pub interior view of the bar

(Image credit: Sim Canetty-Clarke)

For Ewan Venters, CEO of Hauser & Wirth and Artfarm, the listed Victorian building was a natural fit for Artfarm’s first London project. ‘We had wanted a London venue for some time, preferably within walking distance of the gallery in Savile Row, so when The Audley came up, we jumped at it’, he says. ‘We consider the building to be a tremendous piece of architecture with so much character and history attached.’

Food at The Audley will be helmed by Jamie Shears, with the Mount St Restaurant offering a refined classic-contemporary fusion menu drawing inspiration from London's culinary history. Downstairs, the bar will supply a sophisticated twist on pub grub. 

Naturally, art is the backbone of the project, with a revolving showcase of important works throughout, as well as interventions by Hauser & Wirth’s roster of leading international artists. These include Phyllida Barlow’s ceiling installation in the pub, Rashid Johnson’s floor mosaic in the Mount St Restaurant, and Anj Smith’s ceiling fresco which occupies the top-floor turret. ‘It’s a rare thing to be able to commission site-specific art for a project of this scale, one that will help write the next chapter of the building and outlast us all’, says Venters. ‘I believe these works contribute massively to The Audley becoming a glorious and exciting conversation, with an interior that is full of possibilities and inspiration.’

British artist Phyllida Barlow installing her ceiling installation in The Audley pub in Mayfair

Artist Phyllida Barlow pictured in July 2022 installing her collaged ceiling installation which crowns the ground-floor pub in vibrant colour

(Image credit: Sim Canetty-Clarke)

The Audley’s contemporary art pièce de résistance is impossible to miss. British artist Barlow’s abstract ceiling installation crowns the ground-floor pub in a zesty sky of collaged colour, the permanent mosaic of hand-painted paper framed by the pub’s deep mahogany panelling. 

For Barlow, the invitation was a ‘thrilling offer’. ‘I said yes immediately, even though I have never done anything like this before,’ she explained. ‘But [architect Luis Laplace] and I had a very brief conversation where he said, “you've got to be as bold as you want to be and as free as you want to be.” Bold and free is an accurate characterisation of Barlow’s installation, which offers an illusion of kinetic three-dimensionality. ‘It's very active in its relationship to the pub environment, but not in a way that somehow spoils it.’ she continues. ‘I love the idea of it impacting the environment, and making people feel that it was almost natural that it was there.’

Phyllida Barlow's ceiling installation inside The Audley pub

Barlow's finished ceiling installation at The Audley

(Image credit: Sim Canetty-Clarke)

Like many of Artfarm and Hauser & Wirth’s previous restoration projects – including Hauser & Wirth Menorca and Durslade Farmhouse in Somerset – architectural renovations have been headed up by Paris-based Laplace, who has put his stamp on The Audley’s original design by Thomas Verity, best known for the pavilion exterior at Lord’s Cricket Ground. Laplace deployed his signature sensitive approach within the constraints of the Grade II listed structure, allowing art, and the building’s treasured history, to take centre stage. 

Among these treasures are The Audley’s original ceiling clock keeping time on last orders, and the original wooden fireplace, inscribed with the Latin ‘salve’ (welcome). It’s a fitting greeting for a pub that has community and tradition in its DNA, sentiments Artfarm hopes to fervidly maintain. ‘This area is so rich in culture and history, and where better for those stories to continue than at the local pub?’ says Venters. ‘Everyone is welcome!’

In the larger landscape of art-meets-hospitality enterprises, Artfarm is undoubtedly tapping into something. Its recipe is proving, again and again, that there is an appetite for the intersection of these worlds. ‘Art inspires, excites and intrigues, it sparks conversations’, says Venters. ‘Restaurants, hotels and bars give people a space to have those conversations, away from their day-to-day lives.’

Interior view of seating in the Audley pub in Mayfair

(Image credit: Sim Canetty-Clarke)

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Harriet Lloyd-Smith is the Arts Editor of Wallpaper*, responsible for the art pages across digital and print, including profiles, exhibition reviews, and contemporary art collaborations. She started at Wallpaper* in 2017 and has written for leading contemporary art publications, auction houses and arts charities, and lectured on review writing and art journalism. When she’s not writing about art, she’s making her own.

With contributions from