Last year Dreweatts held its spring Modern and Contemporary Art auction on 16 March. We were thrilled to be able to offer a set of six watercolour, pen and ink drawings of 'Google Birds' by Vincent Cartwright Vickers. These eccentric drawings were purchased by Tomkinson Churcher. Nicolette Tomkinson and Sophie Churcher, former Directors of Christie's, founded Tomkinson Churcher in 2016 and currently work as Art Consultants to Bespoke Hotels. Here Nicolette tells us about the Google Birds' journey from our salerooms to the Sun Street Hotel in South Shoreditch.
My first visit to Dreweatts Newbury saleroom in March 2022 was to visit Will Porter and to view a set of six watercolours of fictitious birds by British artist and economist Vincent Vickers. The 'Google Birds' had been consigned to the Modern and Contemporary Art auction and had the wonderful provenance of being owned by the artist's grandson. My colleague Sophie and I had been commissioned to find the lead artwork for a brand new five-star Sun Street Hotel, part of 'One Crown Place', and the latest addition to multi-award winning Bespoke Hotel's Portfolio. Our brief for the original artwork for the hotel was a theme of mythological creatures and animal portraiture, reflecting the stunning combination of Regency meets Contemporary.
We knew immediately that the Dreweatts 'Google Birds' could be a perfect fit and we were delighted to be the successful buyers. These eccentric drawings were executed in the first decade of the 20th century by Vickers who produced them for pleasure and to share with his children and nephews and nieces. Some would later be published in 1913 with accompanying rhymes in The Google Book. Vickers' surreal illustrations of various fictitious birds and whimsical verses were all created while serving as a director of the Bank of England.
Vickers had no formal training in art, but was nevertheless an accomplished artist, exhibiting at the Royal Academy and the Arlington Gallery between 1926 and 1931. He had a passion for animals and birds and was a fellow of the Royal Zoological Society. He particularly liked to draw birds at every opportunity, even painting an exotic bird onto the back of his Humber Snipe car.
The Google of the title is described as a strange pond-dwelling monster living in a beautiful garden. At night it prowls the land where the different birds live. The birds themselves have many exotic names such as the Great Skull-Headed Stone Trot, the Swank, the Blue-Billed Ork and the Shivver-Doodle. It is not known whether Vickers' Google had any influence on the naming of the current famous American Internet company. Vickers himself declared:
“I found that the kiddies- and many of their elders too – seemed to love them, and thus encouraged I began to make experiments and to elaborate the designs. An enthusiastic relative took away some of my most idiotic creations, and, to my utter amazement, actually succeeded in getting them exhibited amongst serious works of art!”
Sun Street's location in the city of London and the fact that Vickers was also the Governor of the Bank of England was a perfect combination and proved to be a great narrative for the hotel. The Google Birds were so well received by their new owners at Sun Street Hotel that they have become an essential part of the brand gracing the menus, business cards and key cards for the rooms. The Google Book has been beautifully reprinted by Sun Street Hotel for their guests and now the images of the Google Birds are seen in the hotel which was not illustrated in earlier editions. The Google Birds even make an appearance on Sun Street Hotel's Cocktail menu. Three of the Google Birds also now occupy prime positions at the arrivals desk at Sun Street Hotel. As a fitting tribute to The Google Birds journey from saleroom to hotel, I am pleased that Dreweatts clients are invited to take advantage of an offer from Sun Street Hotel of 15% off Room only or Bed and Breakfast rates, with a signature cocktail in your room on arrival. Use the code DREW23 (when booking online please select the discount button and the dropdown: rate access/corporate code and enter DREW23).
One Crown Place is a major new £518 million mixed-use scheme on the edge of the City of London by MTD Group. Designed by award-winning international architectural practice Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), the development has set a new standard of architecture for the London skyline. Two prismatic towers host 246 private apartments, rising 28 and 33 storeys into the sky. Last year One Crown Place launched 235 beautifully crafted residences designed by Bowler James Brindley. Award-winning interior design practice, Studio Ashby, designed level seven which offers residents a suite of exceptional amenities that act as an extension of the home. Studio Ashby has also designed the development’s eleven premium apartments on the upper floors of the two residential towers that were launched in October this year.
The lower six stories of the towers are home to 109,675 sq. ft (c. 10,200 sqm) of high-quality office space, with a dedicated office reception by Design Haus Liberty, and a variety of retail units.
Prices for a one-bedroom private apartment start from £998,000.
www.onecrownplace.com | @OneCrownPlace
MTD Group is a multinational infrastructure-based company headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Group has a strong international presence with investment portfolios in properties & real estate, civil engineering & construction, manufacturing of precast related products, infrastructure concessions and operations & maintenance. MTD Group is an experienced player in the property development sector on the Malaysian and overseas fronts.
MTD Group re-entered the London real estate and property market in June 2013 where it acquired One Crown Place from Sun Street Properties Ltd, a unit of UBS, through a bidding process. In 2015, the Group received unanimous approval from the London Borough of Hackney Planning Committee on its plans to redevelop One Crown Place in London EC2. The development was seen to be providing benefits to Shoreditch including new jobs and workspaces, additional housing provision as well as creating a brand-new destination for this part of London.
Sign up for auction alerts and our monthly newsletter to receive expert analysis and insights from our specialists and keep up-to-date on forthcoming auctions, valuation days and previews.