When the opportunity arose to photograph the hallowed interiors of world famous Edwardian hotel the ‘Savoy’ – the epitome of Art Deco luxury and elegance during the three-year long refurbishment – photographer Siobhán Doran rightly leaped at the chance to record its immaculate reincarnation. Improving upon perfection was no small task, yet nostalgia for the old Savoy quickly faded when the renovation was complete. Costing £220 million the resulting opulence was stunning as expected. However, in the time leading up to its great unveiling on October 10th 2010, rooms were stripped, furnishings were wrapped, sold and even discarded. Siobhán’s three-year project exhaustively chronicled every element of the
hotel with revealing, precise and moving results.
The Savoy although synonymous with decadence and privileged living is at its heart a place full of history, stories and more than just a hotel for those who live, stay and work there.
To seize this photographically purely through the building itself was the task, which Siobhán set herself from the onset. From the classic iconic imagery of the external Savoy lettering resting in the Savoy Grill to the more surprising details of its interiors, Siobhán administers deference without sacrificing honesty in her portrayal of the smoke and mirrors that are part of the luxury industry. It is easy to forget that the Savoy is part of a corporate industry and become lost in the romantic ideals it so expertly exhibits.
We are reminded of the mass production of objects which are placed throughout the hotel in one photograph whereby an entire room is furnished with awaiting exotic ceramic birds and vases poised to furnish the exquisite interiors, setting the stage on which the illusions created by this respected establishment are set.
Siobhán subtly captures the affair the Savoy has with celebrity through her atmospheric image of the Royal suite with its inspirational views of the Thames despite the walls at the time varnished with nothing but bare plaster. The affair the Savoy has with celebrity is ever present in a quiet unassuming way, such as the Katherine Hepburn room, which receives a similar treatment before Siobhán’s lens. In choosing to photograph an understated still life she exemplifies the careful placement of every object in each room, taking time to look at the detail within. The need for these finishing touches are all too apparent in a picture of the sitting room of Art Deco Guest Suite 958, that would appear to be completely finished albeit for two lampshades which are yet to cover the exposed light bulbs either side of an armchair, appropriately paced to illuminate the scene of a woman reclining in an equally sumptuous chaise in an oil painting behind it.
The foreboding word ‘OUT’ sprayed in red on the walls of the Monet Suite has equal gravity notwithstanding the poignant mouldings that remain.
Siobhán’s deep understanding, sensitivity and experience has ensured that her photographs of this architectural masterpiece will stand the test of time, just as the Savoy has.
Text by Writer/Gallerist/Artist: Laura Noble