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Saatchi Gallery: The Art of Hosting

Saatchi Gallery: The Art of Hosting

Nestled in affluent Chelsea, the Saatchi Gallery is one of London’s leading contemporary galleries.

With a continually changing exhibition of world-class art as a backdrop, the gallery can offer clients a uniquely creative and immersive space in which to host events.

With the Saatchi as the only gallery in London that allows event clients to hire the space for a week – it is closed to the public, with the option of taking down the exhibition and repainting the spaces – it is a pretty unique proposition for clients and hosts alike.

“We find that most clients tend to hire the venue because it’s a gallery,” says Dean Drury, business development director at GSP Venues for the Saatchi Gallery. “In the past five years we have hosted 15 of the 20 most visited museum exhibitions in London, and as such they want the current exhibition in situ for their event.

“Our current exhibition Black Mirror is no exception. Featuring work from 26 of the world’s most exciting contemporary artists, it offers a topical insight into the effect of politics on art and provides a one-of-a-kind backdrop for any event.”

A free gallery, the Saatchi hosts events to raise vital funds to continue its work in giving contemporary art a spectacular exhibition space.

Events can vary in capacity for up to 1,500 people; with 70,000 sq ft and 13 gallery rooms to use with there are many variations for clients to work with, whether for exclusive or partial hire.

“As a creative arts space we work with and encourage clients to incorporate the gallery’s ethos into their event content; often they will choose a gallery or exhibit and reference the collection through their design or the catering,” says Drury. “We enjoy the creative process, it’s what makes our events stand out, and you cannot underestimate the value of word-of-mouth marketing.”

As we have seen across a number of museum and gallery spaces, the Saatchi works with a selected list of the best caterers in London, with an emphasis on the client to choose which caterer to use, based on the look and feel of the event as well as budget.

“Each offers something very different,” says Drury. “The nature of our business means that every supplier must understand the nuances of working in a unique space such as an art gallery. For example, red wine is an absolute no-no, unless during a seated dinner.”

The gallery spaces can be hired for all manner of occasions, from dinners to drinks receptions and product launches.
Flexibility is the order of the day, with the food and beverage facilities able to cater for all sorts of catered events.

“From a discreet black-tie dinner where the kitchens will be hidden from the guests to a fabulous sushi for reception drinks,” says Drury. “For public exhibitions and shows, we can create cafes and chill spaces and VIP lounges.”

The King’s Road is recognised for having some of London’s best-recognised restaurants such as Rabbit, Bluebird and POLPO, and on-site the Saatchi has the Gallery Mess – which stays open to the general public until 11pm – so the event catering has to be on-trend when it comes to the food, too.

“More and more clients want to know where their food is sourced and want to enjoy the best the season has to offer,” says Drury. “Therefore, we insist that our caterers change their event menus seasonally. One perk of the job is the constant round of menu tastings our caterers host!
“As our clients vary, so do their requests. It can be anything from a simple healthy breakfast to running a café-style offering for 1,500 delegates throughout their event.

“Reflecting high street trends, premium casualisation is the order of the day and we’ve seen some fabulous events with beautiful long tables which encourage guests to interact, share food and inevitably create memories.”

With so much competition in the world of events hosting, Drury emphasises the need for the Saatchi to offer unique opportunities and a high-quality catering service.

“Variety is the spice of life and we love to help clients bring their ideas to life, no matter how big or small,” he says. “We relish challenging the norm as it reflects our reputation as one of London’s most cutting-edge contemporary venues.
“We ensure all client and delegate needs are catered for, whether they require breakout dining spaces with somewhere to sit and relax during daytime events, or an evening exclusive hire that transforms the gallery spaces for seated dinners and an award show drinks reception.”
One of the gallery’s most memorable and challenging events to date was the wedding of art world power-couple Simon and Michaela de Pury.

“They created an immersive food installation which included food served on 69 full-size mattresses, made up sloppily with white sheets, loosely referencing Tracey Emin’s My Bed,” says Drury. “There was 1,000 shucked oysters on a large bed of ice, 100 cured sausages hanging above a raised platform and one gallery was even turned into a tap room where guests could help themselves to beer!”

Downstairs on the ground floor there were 100 cakes from 100 bakeries in London, with purveyors ranging from small ethnic bakeries to posh organic artisanal shops, forming a conceptual portrait in wedding cake of the diversity of London.

“The possibilities really are endless at Saatchi,” says Drury.
Creating destination-style F&B options has been key to the success of the Saatchi Gallery events and Drury underlines the importance that needs to be placed on the quality of food and drink.
“It is a proven fact that food is one of the defining reasons an organiser will choose a venue for an event,” he says. “Therefore, we insist on working with the best caterers, all of whom are handpicked and must have demonstrable accolades to their name. We recognise the need for different price points and therefore offer a list that covers all budgets.”

Customers don’t necessarily care who is creating the food and will associate their experience with the venue first. Drury explains that a close working relationship with the approved caterers will mean that, ultimately, the client is satisfied.

“Delegates are extremely interested in the food they eat, it benefits their awareness and productivity during an event, and this must be reflected in the food on offer,” he says. “It’s vitally important to know what our guests like; vegetarian and vegan options are a must – we challenge our caterers to express themselves and push the limits of what they can create with the briefs they’ve been given.”

Sample Winter Menu

  • Sage and maple roast pumpkin
  • Celeriac purée, chicory, smoked walnuts, Muscat grapes
  • Black treacle-marinated fillet of beef
  • Herb potato and braised beef dumpling, roasted sweetheart cabbage, English mustard emulsion
  • Chocolate mousse dome
  • Praline centre, chocolate glaze, caramelised hazelnut, banana and passion fruit sorbet, raspberry gel