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Haidee Becker group portrait of Bocca di Lupo chefs At Mr & Mrs Smith, we love unearthing London’s coolest events and goings-on – so last night, we roved down to Soho for a sneak preview of LA-born artist Haidee Becker‘s new pop-up gallery – in a former brothel, no less. Haidee happens to be mother to one of London’s most talented restaurateurs, Jacob Kenedy, chef-patron of much-feted Soho eatery Bocca di Lupo. So (hum the tune), it’s a family affair…

If you’re lucky enough to have dined there recently you may recognise Haidee’s work; it provides a feast for the eyes above diners’ heads (literally, not philosophically). If you haven’t been able to get a table, or haven’t heard tell of this Italian trattoria before (where have you been?), you can read the many glowing things Juliet had to say in her review of Bocca di Lupo – Mr & Mrs Smith reckon it’s one of London’s best restaurants.

Haidee Becker – 'Blue Delphinium, Indian Yellow'The works forming Haidee’s ‘Art in a Brothel’ show – a collection of canvases featuring visceral renditions of squid, pig’s heads and chops, as well as beautifully coloured floral still lives and characterful portraits – were largely painted in the space of a few months. At the private view, Haidee’s partner Clive Sinclair (no, not that one; this one) tells us much of her subject matter was swiped from Jacob’s kitchens – including his staff. The event space was, until a few months ago, a ‘massage parlour’ [raise eyebrows]; when its tiny set of interconnecting rooms became available four months ago, Haidee jumped at the chance to work and exhibit opposite the restaurant (we’re sure her intention wasn’t to stalk her son, but… you know how mothers are. Clive jokes that you need to watch where you’re walking on the way over the road, to avoid tripping on the umbilical cord).

Haidee Becker painting at Bocca di LupoWe enjoy the frisson between the depictions of flesh and their setting. And we try to ignore the shenanigans of one guest couple, almost re-enacting past ‘local events’ against a backdrop of oversized delphiniums when they thought no-one was looking. Our favourite touch was ‘Vicky in the Brothel’, a nude hidden in a curtained alcove and propped up on empty cases of Luce wine (geddit?) – a private peep-show only found by extra-curious gallery-goers. Take a peek at this lady of the night and her gathering of groceries and greenery before she’s gone forever…

Haidee Becker at Soho is on until 23 March, with 10 per cent of sales going to support Soho-based homeless charity StreetSmart; the pop-up gallery will remain at 6 Archer Street until 11 May. Bocca di Lupo is at 12 Archer Street, London W1D 7BB (020 7734 2223).

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