In Corporate Façades, artist Débora Delmar examines the signifying potential of objects, materials, and surfaces within the context of London’s Mayfair area.
Known as London’s most affluent business neighbourhood, Mayfair holds a mythological status in the social class cartography of England. In the daytime, the area is densely populated by pristinely dressed corporate workers who frequent the area’s generic chain coffee shops for meetings and improvised sessions of work. Having long maintained an interest in examining the aesthetics of corporate work, Corporate Façades is the result of the artist’s ongoing documentation of the people and things of Mayfair’s coffee shops, understood by Delmar as a deeply coded micro-habitat of corporate labour, one that over the years has spawned ranges of various merchandise, such as the Mayfair Cigarette.
Departing from the site-specificity of Piccadilly Circus (a hectic commuting point at the eastern corner of Mayfair, where the neighbourhood’s affluent workers intermingle with tourists and high-street shoppers) Delmar tests the point at which the juxtaposition of everyday materials and surfaces in artworks begin to evoke the aesthetic cues of power and class. The sparse installation consists of a wall-based diptych of stretched fabric (Canto (Mayfair Businessman), all works 2018), made from repurposed gabardine scraps from Savile Row’s bespoke tailoring workshops. The three-part colour blocking corresponds to the traditional ‘jacket, vest, pants’—elements of a three-piece suit while simultaneously riffling off the visual vocabulary of colour field painting (Canto refers to a seminal painting by American painter Barnett Newman). A steel café table and a stack of generic Bolero chairs sourced from the British catering equipment retailer Nisbets (who supplies furniture to most of the UK’s restaurants) furthermore evoke the quintessential scene of a corporate coffee meeting, while their folded and stacked arrangement makes it appear dysfunctional, unwelcoming and sculpture-like.
A free-to-take newspaper-style publication outside of the exhibition vitrine cloaks itself as one of London’s popular free newspapers. Compiling aspirational quotes by men on the effects of wearing a suit, Delmar shows how the recognition and distilling of power’s sartorial manifestation is not only a critical investigation of fine art, but something that happens everywhere in dress culture all the time.
Ultimately, Delmar moves closer to an understanding of the aesthetics of class, while testing the critical efficacy of mimesis in art.