November 7, 2022

Living the Cheapskate Life: magnificent Maida Vale, free galleries and experiential art with curator Saff Williams

Maida Vale resident and art enthusiast Saff Williams is the curatorial director at Brookfield Properties, one of the world's largest real estate managers.

What’s something amazing about your area that only the locals know about?

I live in Maida Vale and adore the fresh food at Queens Park Farmers’ Market, particularly the Dosai from Mumbai Mix. I also recommend Queens Park Books and Salusbury Deli for delicious fresh pasta and truffle honey.

What would your perfect no-spend London day involve?

Without hesitation I can say I am gallery and museum obsessed; it’s one of the reasons I moved to London from Sydney, Australia. There are dozens of brilliant London galleries you can enter for free and see amazing art and architecture, then grab a cocktail (although that bit sadly isn’t free).

There are endless iterations of a brilliant London art day, for example one could start by walking through St James Park up into the Royal Academy, then into the Pace Gallery, followed by a visit to the Huxley-Parlour Gallery and the Simon Lee Gallery. There’s something about the RA that always calls me to Tate Britain - it’s my favourite of the two London Tates and I especially love having a coffee and a chill upstairs in the members’ lounge. 

But my favourite museum in London, which I am absolutely obsessed with, is the Sir John Soane’s Museum, which is completely free, wonderful and never dull. Check out the Sarcophagus of Seti I, surrounded by Roman and Greek artefacts, or the Hogarths in the picture rooms. I can’t shut up about my love of this Holborn museum; I drag all my out-of-town friends through the doors. 

Did you discover any hidden gems in the capital during the lockdowns?

I discovered the Chelsea Physic Garden and Battersea Park’s Old English Garden.

Can you explain a bit about your process when curating artwork for Brookfield Properties?

Each of our buildings and spaces across London have their own personality, with the physical space and tenant mix of each building specifying the kind of art intervention and or exhibition that’s curated here.

The design of 99 Bishopsgate allows for framing of hanging and sculptural exhibitions such as our annual Brookfield Properties Craft Award, while outdoor spaces such as Principal Place Plaza and Citypoint have sculptural installations which people can sit across, physically enjoy and interact with. 

Almost all of my curatorial selections call to the audience through their bold and playful use of colour and scale and I often look to explore differing materiality as a way for audiences to get into the narrative of the artwork and the intention of the artists. Most importantly my curation always champions accessibility and hopes to be welcoming and engaging for a wide range of audiences, with physical exhibitions, artist talks and workshops.

Why should people come and check out Brookfield Properties’ free art trails?

Brookfield Properties brings its indoor and outdoor spaces to life through culture with the aim of connecting people and creating memorable experiences. These experiences allow for reflection on contemporary life in an urban environment. 

We do this by building long term cultural partnerships and by working with emerging and contemporary artists who challenge conventional thinking and offer us a fresh perspective on life. We believe in the unique ability of art to transform those spaces from places we rush through to spots where we linger, gather, seek out and come together. 

If you could change one thing about the capital, what would it be?

Access into the many gated private parks. As an Australian, the idea of a locked secret garden is a complete antithesis to the wide open spaces of my childhood.  

In three words, what makes somebody a Londoner?

Lives in London… or vibrant, funny, diverse. 

Find out more about Brookfield Properties’ free art trails and events here

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