Venture into the basement of an imposing Mayfair office block and you’ll find an intriguing collection of paintings, prints and artefacts – all dedicated to man’s best friend.
The Kennel Club’s Clarges Street headquarters also houses a public gallery, which opened in 2003 and is free to visit by appointment.
Its Hidden Treasures exhibition runs until March 2020 and showcases artwork and artefacts from the organisation’s 143 year history.
Curator Marianne Walker, 48, said: “We’re really fortunate that the dog is so embedded in our history and culture that people just love to see artwork about them.
“First of all, people can’t believe we have a collection all about the dog and then they actually love seeing the pieces.”
Marianne – pictured above, left, with co-curator Luisa Foster – spent approximately two years planning and researching ahead of the exhibition opening last month.
Artist Ms Walker said several tour groups have visited as well as the great-granddaughter of George Earl, a 19th century painter with several pieces on display.
Housed in just one room, the exhibition won’t take too long to wander through but it displays plenty – from the wacky (dogs dressed in uniform), to the impressive (a 1900 Crufts China tea set) and the important (paintings of the now extinct English white terrier).
Mrs Foster, 41, said one of the most interesting aspects of the exhibition was how some of the pieces were acquired.
She explained: “My favourite piece is a wooden bowl donated to us a number of years ago by a lady who just rang up and said she had found it when she was clearing out her shed.
“She didn’t really have an idea what it was and when she described it I knew right away that it was valuable – it’s priceless!”
The piece in question was a prize at the 1898 Birmingham’s National Dog Show, the country’s oldest dog show which predates the Kennel Club.
Mrs Foster, who started working at the Kennel Club almost 19 years ago, said the piece highlighted how easy it can be to stumble upon something of genuine worth.
And elsewhere in the building other pieces of remarkable value can be found.
There are more than 1,000 paintings, prints and antiques spread across the building with the oldest being a Pieter Boel painting from roughly 1640.
A special tour of the exhibition, club library and archive takes place on Wednesday 19 June, complete with tea and coffee and a talk from librarian Ciara Farrell.
Tickets can be bought at https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/our-resources/the-art-gallery/tours-of-the-kennel-club/ for £5 pp and must be purchased by Tuesday.
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