Manuela and Iwan Wirth, the owners of the mega-gallery Hauser & Wirth, have bought a ritzy private club in London with a short but decorated history and a collection of 150 artworks.
The Groucho Club was purchased through Art Farm, the Wirths’ hospitality arm, which owns a group of boutique hotels and restaurants. Among those eateries is Manuela, a restaurant located at Hauser & Wirth’s Los Angeles gallery.
Ewan Venters, CEO of both Artfarm and Hauser & Wirth, said in a statement, “As a member for some time myself, I understand the special place the Groucho occupies in London’s cultural landscape. Under Artfarm’s ownership, the future of the club is assured. We will respect the history and traditions of the club, and we look forward to engaging with its membership to create a long-term future for the Groucho that builds on its eclectic appeal and maverick ethos.”
It wasn’t clear whether Hauser & Wirth would have any relationship with the Groucho Club. Many of the other businesses that Artfarm owns bear no official connection to the gallery.
The 37-year-old club has garnered a reputation for its exclusivity. It has hosted some of the most high-profile members of the British art scene, including artist Damien Hirst, who reportedly partied there when he won the Turner Prize in 1995. The club—whose name is a reference to Groucho Marx’s famed remark of not wanting to belong to a club that would have him as a member—accepted women as members at a time when most businesses of its kind were only open to men.
Its art connections are also not merely limited to people in the club’s social network. The Groucho Club has a collection of art by famed British artists, among them Hirst, Michael Craig-Martin, Tracey Emin, Peter Blake, Yinka Shonibare, and Banksy.
The Financial Times reported that the club was acquired by Artfarm for £40 million ($48.9 million). The Groucho’s membership currently numbers around 5,000 people.