Vestalia Chilton studied Valuation and Auctioning of Fine Art and Chattels at De Montfort University. The desire was to undertake this specialised degree as it covered the business side of the arts, restoration and conservation and not just art history or theory. A result of this decision found her working for two years at Sotheby’s Bond Street after graduating. The work was varied however there did seem to be rather a lot of polishing of the silver in the Russian department. Working at an auction house was reminiscent of a conveyer belt of artifacts going into a sale. An average auction is made up of 200 to 300 lots and despite this being a huge learning curve Vestalia felt that you didn’t get enough time with each artist or the actual artwork.
The arts are not simply a commodity but a cultural entity and Vestalia began to realise that she wanted to be working with living artists, to make art that ‘is at work’ and is not put into a box for secure storage. Out of this realization Attollo Art was born: a bridge between the public and the artist. ‘Art away from the gallery walls’ is at the core of their mission and satisfies the desire that Vestalia has to be ‘hands on’:
“I love all kind of art and would rather buy a work of art than a new pair of shoes! To me it is a double win: you acquire something truly unique which puts a smile on your face every time you look at it and at the same time, it goes to support an artist in their creative quest.”
Through Attollo Art Vestalia developed her more hands on processes and curated the Street Art programme for the Marrakech Biennale 6th Edition. This was a first-of-a-kind project and included the biggest mural in North Africa where the Italian street artist Giacomo Bufarini RUN painted a mural on a public square spanning more than 6,600 square meters. As with a lot of street art this held a political message: the mural was completed at the height of the migration crisis and depicted two people communicating across borders: one playing an instrument and the other listening. This was a powerful message of tolerance and humanity and since then Vestalia and her team have brought large-scale murals to Croydon, Dulwich, and Paris and there are plans afoot to host a street art festival in another U.K. area.
The positioning of street art within the art world is an unusual one and is often seen as political, reflecting the role of the artist in society. Creatives are able to use their voices more universally in uncertain times and this is an essential element of civilisation. Vestalia continues to develop opportunities for these voices to flourish under the Attollo Art umbrella. And in 2015 she started working with the newly opened Exhibitionist Hotel. As a public space it perfectly suits Vestalia’s desire ‘to bring creativity to wider audiences, and not necessarily those knowledgeable in the arts’.
There is a varied programme of exhibitions at the hotel and as they are not a formal gallery space they are not defined by a particular style or form of art. A successful exhibition was ‘The Neon Garden of Earthly Delights’ (a theme taken from the famous painting by Hieronymus Bosch). The hotel was filled with neon flora and included works by Damien Hirst, Harland Miller and Sir Peter Blake amongst others, all depicting elements of Earthly Delights. The pièce de résistance however, were the two pool tables; one shaped as a banana and another, as a doughnut. The doughnut pool table made it onto the BBC One Show and launched the Great British Bake (Bread) Off with Sue Perkins broadcasting live to the nation whilst actually having a game of pool on the doughnut table.
Humour certainly plays a part in Vestalia’s curatorial vision. To be accessible, engaging and approachable artworks need to initially entice visually and entertain. This is illustrated succinctly in a recent exhibition ‘Parody and Art’ where there was a deeper message in all the works despite the visual entertainment. This group show included familiar images that had been edited to carry an alternative meaning through parody such as the ‘Trump on a Marlborough Cigarette Packet’ poster by Antony Micaleff, widely used in anti-Trump demonstrations worldwide.
Overall Vestalia believes that art is becoming more widely accessible, museums are reporting record visitor numbers and this is also reflected in the digital world. Works by established artists can be bought at enormous prices with a single click of a mouse. Transparency seems to be the new way in the arts and this makes Vestalia happy, especially as creativity is also being used more in all areas of business. However there is still room for development and Vestalia would like to see artists’ skills being used more effectively than just on a canvas stuck inside a frame. For art to ‘work’ it needs to be amongst communities, within social networks, on and in buildings, in technology and definitely not as an afterthought in property developments.
In order to continue Vestalia’s own campaign to engage with art that ‘is at work’ she has an action packed year ahead. A vibrant calendar of exhibitions and art talks for the Exhibitionist Hotel is scheduled with a political Middle Eastern Art show planned for after the current, ‘happy making’ Doodlemania. These contrasting shows clearly indicate Vestalia’s intriguing interest in contemporary art and its placement in society yet curiously she states that art for her own enjoyment does not reflect what she may suggest professionally.
However there is a definite intellectual link as Vestalia herself particularly likes Patrick Caulfield’s works. His paintings deal with matters of illusion, through the traditional medium of painting he paints beautiful and complex canvases without politicising. Vestalia enjoys his philosophy and finds it similar to The Treachery of Images, the famous painting ‘Ce Ne Pas Une Pipe’ by the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte where the assumption of truth is simply an illusion.
“This notion is something I am very aware of in my life - the matter of perception, a view, or an understanding of the same element seen from a different vantage point.”