India Rose James is a mad art collector. The walls of her textural dream home in London are covered by a myriad of artworks, which she lives and breathes via her four-storey Soho gallery revue. Sitting in her favourite room, the kitchen, James chats to her friend painter Antonia Showering, about art school, the intense artist-gallerists relationship, and dreamscapes that bleed into life.
IRJ: Where are you?
AS: In the studio.
IRJ: Which studio?
AS: In Somerset. Please come visit me.
IRJ: I'll come visit you. But it's almost 5-6 hours away from London.
AS: You'll be coming down next month though?
IRJ: I am coming down next month for Glastonbury this year?
AS: Yeah, it's on the way. It's literally next door.
IRJ: Are you good? Are you working at Glastonbury this year?
AS: No I've worked since I was about 19. But should we start with where we met?
IRJ: Well we met in, like, the basement of Scala.
AS: Oh my God, you actually remember meeting me.
IRJ: Yes, in the smoking area, underground at Scala.
AS: How old were you then? 20? I can remember meeting you and I thought you were so cool in tartan. Somehow I remember what you were wearing. As the same time I was at Chelsea College of Arts.
IRJ: Yeah, and I was at City and Guilds
AS: We ended up meeting each other and going to the same art foundation parties.
IRJ: Gaz's Rocky and Blues and all that kind of stuff.
AS: We had a lot of things in common. We had been to art school. I was still at art School...
IRJ: Yeah, we have the same friends. We kept seeing each other at private showings. We also shared a boyfriend, he had great taste.
AS: Oh, we did. And we're both sufferers of eczema, which we've got to bond over. I think that was about 12 years ago. But anyway, were you installing yesterday?
IRJ: Yeah, we were installing (Beautiful Surrender by Rebekah Rubalcava and Bastard Gumwood by Layla Andrews) yesterday, and the private viewing is tomorrow. So, I had what they call the install shots today. We're actually doing two openings (at Soho Revue) in one day- the double whammy. It's the first time. I don't know how it will go but it feels like it will flow quite nicely, because I'm sure the guests of each artist will kind of gravitate to each floor.
AS: But you are a gallerist and curator and the handbag that you used to wear around, an art dealer.
IRJ: No, no I don't like being an art dealer. Really, it makes it sound dodgy. I'm not a dealer. It makes it sound like you're doing it for the wrong reason.
AS: Which is actually the opposite of why you're doing it.
IRJ: Yes. I don't like that title. I'm just an art lover.
AS: And you represent artists.
IRJ: yes. I don't like that title. I'm just an art lover.
AS: And you represent artists.
IRJ: No, not yet, but we're having a conversation with one after their next solo show with us. But it's kind of a lot. It just feels quite like, as you said when you were signing with Tim (Timothy Taylor) that it feels like you're committing to a relationship. It's quite intense.
AS: Yeah. I waited a long time to sign up. It feels like a marriage, and I wanted to make sure I had the right fit. So it was on my 30th birthday that I had the conversation with Tim, and it felt really exciting.
RJ: You've worked with them twice before, right?
AS: Yes, on two group shows. But we didn’t make it official until the summer of 2021, I was about to do my solo show. I remember it being this really sweet conversation where I asked if they wanted to talk about representation.
IRJ: And he let me buy one.
AS: Which I was really glad about because, as you can see from the house, you are obsessed with green. It may even be on your nails right now.
IRJ: No, my nails are hell at the moment.
AS: I've been out of London so long. Things have changed.
IRJ: Well, they were green, and then I felt like I had to go a little bit more springy, so I've gone what they like to call a glazed doughnut.
AS: Oh, I've seen that on TikTok. I feel like my paintings are, they've always felt like children in a way, and where they end up, I've always felt very passionately that they go to homes that ideally I'll be able to visit at some point, and see that they're sort of being cared for and looked after.
IRJ: Well then you need to come over and we can play a game of backgammon or chess underneath it in the green room.
AS: In the green room in your house, which is on the first floor? I love where you've put it. I think that it works so well.
IRJ: Well, it was one of the only ones that I sent to my interior designer being like ‘we must design the room around this.’
AS: Thank you, that's exactly the way that I like my paintings to be looked after. Who was your interior designer?
IRJ: It was Maria from Retrouvius, and she smashed it. What I really liked about her was that it was very curated between us. It wasn't like she came up with an idea and I said yes or no. It was like we worked together the whole time. We went around to these antique fairs. We went to all the paint shops and did everything one-on-one, so it wasn't like she came up with the idea. It was both of us combining, which is a really nice experience, especially when you're creating your dream house. I'm the one living in it forever. You know, it's got to have my input.
AS: And it feels like that. It’s going to age so beautifully because it's got that classic feel. It's like a real sort of ‘India’ feel. You're not going to get sick of that place, even in 200 years. Because how you are going to live. As long as you quit smoking, you might have a chance.
IRJ: Yeah, yeah I will quit one day. I've got so much Alma Berrow smoking merchandise around the house. How could I quit with all that? Actually, I had some clients around today and they were like ‘you have an Alma Berrow in your bathroom here?’ And I was like ‘yeah, we do.’
AS: Oh, I thought you were going to say the clients walked in and said there's someone that's left a condom wrapper on the floor. Because if you hadn’t come across the work before, it would definitely be someone's rational first impression.
IRJ: What are you drawing right now?
AS: Me? Oh I'm doing some nervous doodles. It's actually quite tender.
IRJ: I just remembered, we did work together. We did a show together. My God, how could I forget? On Grove Street, that was fun.
AS: It was a photographer, poet and painter, and I really enjoyed working with you. It felt like you were super efficient and professional and passionate. It was a good project and a nice show because it was showing my painting that had been in Los Angeles, in Bart Gallery, but that hadn't been seen in London. It felt really meaningful to see it up on your wall. And the foot fall, the number of people that sent me pictures of my painting just from walking past on the street.
Hey do you have any pieces of mine in your home?
IRJ: Yes, I've got like four or five. Siblings, Survivors. Then I've also got Strike a Pose from Barcelona. And then the little drawing you made for Saffi (India’s daughter). And I've also got the drawing you did of Saffi drawing. I actually got that framed to put in her bedroom.
AS: Well on my mantelpiece I’ve got Saffi’s drawing, which connects the future with me and my child, when I was pregnant, that was really magical. I've kept it. I love it.
IRJ: She (Saffi) has now moved on to drawing on the iPad and prints them out. I get daily prints done. She’s gone down the David Hockney route.
AS: So when did you start collecting art?
IRJ: I think I properly started, maybe in like 2018 was where I really started to collect. But it's kind of mad now, it’s at a point where there is too much art I want and I don't have enough space. Which is why I now have one wall in the house, behind by the stairs, which still hasn't got any artwork on it.
AS: But apart from that, your walls are filled?
IRJ: Pretty much now, yeah. They're getting a bit full. There's still spots there, I just can't buy anything too large really. But I mean, if it goes to LA, it goes to LA.
AS: What do you feel inspired by in your house?
IRJ: I spend most of my time in the kitchen. I mean the colour is, as you can see, it's a pretty perfect for me.
You know, I have these moments where I would have been looking at paintings on Instagram or something the night before, and I'm like ‘I own that painting’. Then I realise, no I don't, I was just looking at it. It's like this disease of being an art collector. It’s like when you’ve inquired on a painting and you just feel like, that's mine now.
AS: I finished a painting that sort of describes everything that I'm feeling and then I wake up and realise it was just the dream that I had and it’s really sad. It’s a sad, empty feeling when you realise that it’s yet to be made.
But I've started working on some works on paper for the summer show at Tim Taylor in New York and I am going over there. Are you going over to New York soon?
IRJ: I don't know. Everyone's out there now for Frieze, but I'm here and I've got too much work to do.
AS: Are there pieces in your space that you particularly love?
IRJ: Paintings. Paintings, and obviously your ones. Well there's the painting that I painted of Saffi that I am emotionally attached to. And then there’s the Andreas Ericsons in my kitchen. Those are some of the first paintings I bought. They were two of the first ones in my collection. I bought them at Miami Basel in 2018. I love them. I almost bought some more.
AS: How do you live and work in your space day-to-day?
IRJ: I come downstairs and walk and feed the dogs. Get Saffi, ready for school. And then I basically sit on my laptop in the kitchen. I spend all my time in the kitchen to be honest. It's the brightest room in the house.
AS: And you have the little reading room. I'd be under there whenever it was raining hearing the rain on the skylight above.
IRJ: Antonia, when was the last time you had time to sit and read a book? I haven't had the time to sit down and read a book in a very long time.
AS: It’s true, it's not easy to find the time. But I can't wait to see you.
IRJ: I know when am I going to see you again?
AS: We'll definitely be seeing you when you come down to Somerset, for Glastonbury. Maybe a sleepover before?