OPINION - Where did all these Clarendon Fine Art shops come from? Make them go away


In an update on Britain’s catastrophe of good taste, Clarendon Fine Art shops are categorically booming. I mean those galleries on every high street flogging ‘art’ of the fake Andy Warhol soup can spray-painted neon green with a Chanel logo for 10 grand variety.

The chain, now akin to Pret a Manger in London (you can stand in the doorway of one and see four more), was founded in 2010 by Helen Swaby with noble ambitions of “taking the snobbery out of buying art” by offering a range in price. The shops currently have pieces from £105 up to Damien Hirsts and Banksys (POA). Brava! But careful before we all cheer.

One gallery has quickly become more than 80 UK-wide (there are 15 little shops of horror in London alone), and when I returned to my hometown of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk last weekend, one had cropped up, aforementioned Chanel soup leering maliciously out of the front window, on beautiful Angel Hill. This I take great offence to.

Why are they airlifting shockingly hideous art into the countryside, brandished with the London stamp of approval?

Why are they airlifting shockingly hideous art (Mr Brainwash, whose oeuvre includes William Shakespeare reimagined with a face tattoo, Ray-Ban aviators and a “Hello, my name is Willy” name tag, is one of their top artists) into the countryside, brandished with the London stamp of approval?

But Clarendon’s success (last year it had surpassed £100 million in sales by July, doubling its 2022 stats) seems to point to deeper cracks in our collective cultural consciousness.

Can we really be a nation happy with, going by a look at their website, spray-paint cans adorned with Grey Goose Vodka labels (Campbell La Pun, £4,500); lionesses with Gucci’s interlocking GG logo shaved into their fur (Hayley Goodhead, £5,350); or Marilyn Monroe wearing a T-shirt that says “rich man’s world” in front of 100 dollar bills (Mr. Sly, £4,995)? Perhaps so.

To which I say: put whatever you please up in your downstairs bogs, but, Clarendon Fine Art, 87 galleries really is enough now. We don’t need them burning our retinas at every turn.

Joe Bromley is the Evening Standard’s junior fashion editor