Own a Piece of the Ivy, London’s Celebrity Canteen Since 1917
You might think you can't put a price on glamour.
Oh, yes you can.
The contents of that most alluring of showbiz restaurants, the Ivy in London, go on sale tomorrow, March 25, in a charity auction that will feature everything from its cocktail shakers and napkins to the front doors, doormat, and even the stained-glass windows that have given the Covent Garden restaurant such a distinctive look. The reason? It's getting a makeover by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio and will reopen in May. The owner, Richard Caring, is selling off its artifacts and artworks to benefit Child Bereavement U.K.
The Ivy began life in 1917 when then-owner Abel Glandellini and Maitre d' Mario Gallati joined forces and attracted the theater community to their modest café. The name came when Glandellini apologized for building work. The French actress Alice Delysia responded by quoting a popular song of the time, saying: "Don't worry: We will always come to see you, we will cling together like the ivy." Since then it has hosted stars from Laurence Olivier to Marlene Dietrich, Kate Moss to Tom Cruise, and holds a place of honor among Covent Garden's best restaurants.
Altogether, there are 58 lots (sold as part of Sotheby's Made in Britain auction), including the battered tray used for tips in the cloakroom. It's difficult to know if that means celebrities are enthusiastic tippers or just inclined to drop a few coins rather than bills.
Here are 10 lots Sotheby's expects to attract the most attention, be it for their pricey estimates, visual impact, or essential "Britishness."
The Tube Station, Cyril Edward Power
This linoleum cut is typical of the work of Power, an artist known for his London scenes. He was commissioned to produce works for the London Underground, and his works are included in the collections of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, according to ArtRepublic.com. Estimate: 35,000 pounds ($51,600) to 50,000 pounds
Whence & Whither, Cyril Edward Power
This dates to around 1930. It is numbered and inscribed 18/60 USA Ed. Estimate: 40,000 pounds to 60,000 pounds
Sean Connery, Terence Donovan
Donovan was one of the U.K.'s leading photographers in the 1960s, along with David Bailey and Brian Duffy. He also pioneered pop videos, including Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love. Here is Connery doing his best James Bond. Estimate: 1,500 pounds to 2,000 pounds
The Ivy Entrance Doors
Attributed to the architectural practice of M.J. Long, these doors date back to the 1970s and are made with oak, glass, and brass, with bound leather handles. It's easy to imagine an interior designer wanting to get hold of these. Estimate: 800 pounds to 1,200 pounds
The Ivy Cloakroom Tip Tray
This was made around 1920 and is visibly dented through use. It's fascinating to think of the celebrities who contributed to this (and those who didn't). Estimate: 80 pounds to 120 pounds
Dionysus, the Ivy and the Vine, Joe Tilson
Tilson was associated with Pop Art in the 1960s and since then has favored more traditional craftsmanship. This 1990 work includes the words, "Best wishes for a Dionysian future at the Ivy" on the reverse. Estimate: 30,000 pounds to 50,000 pounds
The Best Seat in the House
This oak and leather upholstered banquette has probably accommodated many of the world's biggest celebrity derrieres. Well, not Kim Kardashian's, but you know what I mean. Estimate: 800 pounds to 1,200 pounds
Mural for the Ivy, Allen Jones
Jones is one of the U.K.'s most controversial artists, with furniture based around women in fetish outfits. These boldly colored murals feature barely clad women, too. Estimate: 40,000 pounds to 60,000 pounds
Two Cocktail Shakers
The Ivy was a great place for cocktails before everyone else started serving them. These are affordable souvenirs in glass mounted with silvered metal. Estimate: 80 pounds to 120 pounds
The Ivy Painting, Bridget Riley
Riley is a fine artist, and this has long been my favorite artwork at the restaurant. It is striking, modern, and distinctive, yet the colors and style sit happily with the Ivy's Art Deco style. Sadly, I can't afford to bid for it. Estimate: 120,000 pounds to 180,000 pounds
Richard Vines is the Chief Food Critic for Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines.