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Ladies' Paradise: A Group Show Opens at a Spa in Belgravia

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Ladies' Paradise is a confident and well-thought out art exhibition that does not need the Wow factor. Co-curated by the London based curators Huma Kabakcı and Nadja Romain, four women artists from the UK, Greece and Turkey were selected to respond in visual terms to the female body in the media of ceramics, canvas, drawings and textiles. A woman's perspective on the female body that draws into the sacred; the divine. Not just of the woman's body, but, perhaps, into the body of the human being, further than gender and stereotypes.


The show flows with integrity and a sense of calm. Perhaps, being located in a spa just for women aids to enhance pause and mindfulness. A vase by Clementine Keith Roach representing a curvaceous female body cleverly plays with unearthing antiquities such as the Venus of Willendorf, the mother goddess dated as back as 28,000 BCE. It suggests a rethink on the current hostility towards women as the #MeToo campaign revealed. And it raises concern of a patriarchal society that seems to have lost the sacred of the woman's body as creator of life.


Kabakcı responds to the following questions:


1. Where does the idea of Ladies' Paradise come from? Why to exhibit it in a spa?

Funnily enough, both Nadja and I had read the novel by Émile Zola on which the exhibition title is based ages ago. I realised that the gender roles and the hierarchy explored in the 19th century novel was a perfect fit for Grace’s building and location, seeing as it is a female-only space. Instead of calling it Les dames de Bonheur, we decided on the English translated version – the spatial concept of a ‘ladies’ paradise’ is an especially important one to explore in a patriarchal society, especially in a city dominated by male-only clubs. The Atrium itself also reflects the elegant style of the building in the novel.


2. How was the experience of co-curating a show with the French curator Nadja Romain?

I met Nadja for the first time coincidentally not in London but in Jakarta, Indonesia, for an art fair two years ago. Since then, we have kept in touch and attended each other’s events. I had been invited to Grace Belgravia to an exhibition curated by her before, so I was aware of the fact that they had an exhibition space available. Thanks to Nadja, when Grace Belgravia appeared as an exhibition space, we decided to collaborate. Since we are both women in the arts and have similar curatorial interests we thought it was only natural that we ought to curate an exhibition together. Nadja is more experienced in working on larger projects and I have been drawn to emerging artists and creating a site-specific dialogue in my curatorial practice, so I think we have been a good team. It has been a pleasure working with her and everything went so smoothly!


3. You come from a family of art collectors. How does it influence your curatorial practice?

My father Nahit Kabakcı began collecting in the 1980s, focusing on paintings by artists from Turkey, Russia and Central Asia. I was exposed to art from a young age, visiting studios and exhibitions and seeing art all the time at home, but after my father passed away I studied for a Masters in Curating Contemporary Art at London’s Royal College of Art (RCA). Thanks to my mom and my family's support, I decided to choose a curatorial route to understand how to preserve, manage and further the collection my late father passed on to me. I am not sure however whether the collecting has an influence on my curatorial practice directly, as I prefer to keep them very separate and experiment more in my projects. The two years I spent at the RCA definitely shaped my curatorial identity and theoretical approach.


4. Can you please give us a short introduction about your next project at Whiteley's in Notting Hill?

The title of the exhibition was inspired by its botanical connotation, where ‘adventitious’ refers to the formation of roots in unusual locations. In rhizomatic manner, the coincidences that have taken place along the curatorial process - including, for example, the opportunity to respond to such an exciting site and its long and particular history - have activated its other meaning: resulting from chance, rather than design or inherent nature. Adventitious Encounters proposes to explore the network processes of mankind and nature in the age of the Anthropocene in connection to theories and ideas around human production and consumption. Located on the sky-roof of the historic Whiteleys - a bygone Shopping Centre that transitioned from a Victorian department store and awaits a future development project - the group exhibition consists of 20 internationally acknowledged, emerging and established contemporary artists. In this particular site, which is rarely open to the public, scents, colours, textures and emotions elicited through the selection of works, allow for the aesthetic reinterpretation of nature and reveal our own entanglement with it.


The show presents 4 women emerging artists who will explore the subject through different media: 

- ceramics with Clementine Keith Roach (UK)

- canvas paintings with Merve Iseri (Turkey)

- drawings with Sofia Stevi (Greece)

- sawn textiles with Günes Terkol (Turkey)

and it takes place at Grace Belgravia until the 8th of April. For more information, please visit the website

Photo credit: Photograph by Fenella Mett. Courtesy of Everything I Want & Open Space Contemporary. Work by Clementine Keith Roach, Vault, 2017

Contact Information: 

Grace Belgravia, 11C W Halkin Street, London
22 February – 8 April 2018 [time: 11am-6pm every day]

020 7235 8900 -

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