Much has been written about the reported £88,000 Downing Street flat makeover masterminded by A-list interior designer Lulu Lytle. We’re told that the new look boasts ‘Persian rugs, cream walls with gold hangings and gold chandeliers’. There’s talk of ‘gold’ wallpaper (at £840 a roll) so heavy it is now peeling off the walls. But what works currently hang off it?
These days, Downing Street aides are rather hush hush about the interiors of the flat. But there are some clues. Mr S has obtained files from the Government Art Collection which lay bare for the first time the tastes and preferences of the Prime Minister and his wife Carrie Johnson when it comes to the paintings that hang in the flat. According to the documents, Johnson has bagged 44 of the 182 works listed as being ‘current ministerial selections’.
‘Untitled’ – one of the six Peter Blake works in No. 10. Credit: Government Art Collection.
Modern works are clearly favoured by the Johnsons, who display six pieces by pop artist Peter Blake – the man best known for co-creating the sleeve design for the Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. These includes Blake’s ‘Side Show’ series – a portfolio of five wood engravings that he made after photographs including ‘Fat Boy,’ ‘Bearded Lady’ and ‘Midget.’ Blake’s contemporary Joe Tilson is also displayed in No. 10 with his series of the nine Greek muses – something which our classicist premier can surely appreciate.
The Garland series of Annabel’s. Credit: Government Art Collection.
Carrie’s ties to the Birley family are meanwhile hinted at in a series of 14 prints by cartoonist Nicholas Garland, based on the Mayfair private members club Annabel’s. The club was named by founder Mark Birley after his wife Lady Annabel, who later married Sir James Goldsmith – father of government minister Zac, Carrie’s former boss. The ‘first lady of Downing Street’ now works as head of communications for the Aspinall Foundation, whose trustees include Zac’s brother Ben and the Goldsmiths’ half-brother Robin Birley. Garland of course will be well-known to Boris, having been the Telegraph’s regular columnist from 1966 to 1986 and again from 1990 to 2011 alongside his regular Spectator drawings– including during the latter’s editorship.
Other artworks on display in the Johnson flat include Derek Boshier’s oil painting ‘I Wonder What My Heroes Think of the Space Race’ – a nod perhaps to Dominic Cummings’ purchase of the OneWeb satellite company? – and Graham Sutherland’s entry to the 1951 Festival of Britain ‘The Origins of the Land.’ Perfect inspiration for the long-awaited ‘Festival of Brexit’ next year.
The Hamlet work. Credit: Government Art Collection.
Old Etonians are represented by printmaker Howard Hodgkin with John Minton’s ‘Cornish Boy at a Window’ a possible reminder of the looming G7 summit this weekend. Paintings by Jessica Dismorr, Paul Nash, Terry Frost and Duncan Grant are also on show while Allen Jones’s lithograph of ‘Hamlet’ ought to offer the PM solace when suffering Westminster’s slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
Having got No. 10 looking all lovely, Mr S hopes Boris and Carrie will still be around for a while to appreciate it.
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