Introducing #FortnumsXFrank

Read all about one of the boldest events in Fortnum's history | By Ewan Venters CEO Fortnum & Mason

From September 13, Fortnum & Mason becomes the temporary home of works from the Frank Cohen Collection, one of the most important collections of Modern British art in private hands. Read our CEO Ewan Venters' introduction to find out more.

In the 1950s it was a familiar sight to see Garfield Weston, then our owner and chairman, descend the red carpeted stairs around midday and head out for lunch.

It was an equally familiar sight to see Mr. Weston returning a few hours later with a new painting in tow.

Many of those paintings quickly made their way onto our walls, but Mr. Weston was never too possessive of any of them. If a customer took a liking to something - and was willing to pay a little more than the original price - the painting was theirs to keep.

Way back in our history, we’ve even been known to accept artworks from artists, in lieu of payment. The multi-talented artist, film director and novelist John Paddy Carstairs once proposed paying a grocery bill with one of his paintings.

We liked the painting - and the idea of doing something as typically Fortnum’s as writing-off a food bill in exchange for a work of art - and so we agreed.

For more than 300 years, Fortnum’s has been dedicated to captivating every person that walks through our doors and art - long before Mr. Weston’s mid-afternoon impulse purchases and unusual artwork-for-groceries swaps - has always played an important part in making Fortnum’s feel like an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind sort of place.

Those two words - extraordinary, and one-of-a-kind - are fitting descriptors for Frank Cohen, his incredible collection of art, and the exciting installation taking place at Fortnum’s right now.
Fortnum’s X Frank is one of the boldest and most exciting projects in our history. We could not be more thrilled to be hosting Frank Cohen’s collection, one of the most important private collections of Modern British art in the world, in the heart of our busy and bustling shop. During the course of this month-long collaboration, more than 60 pieces from Frank’s collection will be displayed across every inch of our Piccadilly home.

For me personally, there is something tremendously exciting about the thought of customers shopping for their favourite tea and stumbling upon a major work of Modern British art. Though hopefully (and for the express benefit of our insurers, should they be reading) only stumbling in a metaphorical sense, of course.

The calibre of artists in the exhibition is staggering. Names like Frank Auerbach, Charming Baker, Tracey Emin, Howard Hodgkin, Leon Kossoff, Paula Rego, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Bridget Riley, William Roberts, and Stuart Pearson Wright - to name a few - are enough to set pulses racing among even the most casual art-lovers.

Some of the pieces on display you will fall in love with instantly, others may burn a little slower, but all will make a lasting impression. We’re indebted to Frank for the incalculable part he has played in bringing this provocative, unusual project to life. So too Robert Upstone, former Director of Modern British Art at the Fine Art Society and Curator of Modern British Art at Tate Britain, who has curated this show.

But before the serious business of exploring the exhibition begins, there is one very important matter to clear up.

As far as I know, Frank’s wonderful collection has not made its way inside Fortnum’s because of a John Paddy Carstairs-type arrangement. We are not the lucky recipients of so much significant art because of an outstanding bill from the Cohen household for Royal Blend or Chocolossus biscuits.

Though of course, if Frank Cohen suddenly fancied trading an Auerbach for a caddy or two or a tall tin or three, I’m sure there is something we could do.

On behalf of all at Fortnum & Mason, enjoy the exhibition.

Ewan Venters, CEO Fortnum & Mason.