The Mall Room

As part of Open House London, discover the historic home of the British Academy, the UK’s national body for the humanities and social sciences.

The Mall Room at the British Academy

This room was the south drawing room during the Ridley family’s tenancy and offers views across to St James’s Park, the Mall and the Academy’s sister institution, The Royal Society. During the First World War, Lady Ridley turned the house into a hospital for wounded officers, many of whom were suffering from the effects of gas inhalation. If you look out of the window, down overlooking the Mall, huts were placed on the terrace below so that the soldiers could get much needed fresh air to aid their recovery.

Art highlights

Figure on Pedestal I & II, papercut
Figure on Pedestal I & II, papercut, 2013, 250 x 160cm

Figures on Pedestal #1 & #2

by Charlotte Hodes, papercut, 2013

A leading figure in contemporary art, Charlotte Hodes’ work profiles her long-standing engagement with the crossovers between the fine and decorative arts. She draws on craft processes to create imagery firmly situated within the language of fine art. She brings her considerable experience as a painter to both her extraordinarily intricate papercuts and large-scale installations in which ready-made ceramic ware serves as her alternative canvas. She has been a member of the Academy’s Art Committee since 2021.

The female figure is Hodes’ pivotal motif, an elusive but ever-present silhouette emerging from or blending into backdrops of tactile pattern and vibrant colour. The woman that wanders through her work is nonetheless a disruptive force, refusing her given role as decorative feature to take ownership of her environment and reclaim her autonomy.

Charlotte Hodes comments: “The depiction of women is the overriding concern in my work, and I draw upon its rich history in both the fine and decorative arts. My intention is to re-imagine the female figure for a contemporary audience.

In these papercuts I explore ideas around statuary and in particular how women are raised on pedestals. They constitute a collision between public and private, the domestic domain of women and notions of women as mere decorative elements.

The artworks are hand-cut, and are the result of hours of manual work, connecting me to those craft traditions associated with women, such as, embroidery and quilting. As in these traditions, my large-scale works are composed of tiny fragments and intricately cut passages that build together into a monumental whole. In Figure on Pedestal I, the woman has a pile of crockery on her head, a reference to the maid in Domenico Ghirlandaio’s fresco, The Birth of John the Baptist (Santa Maria Novella Florence) and a further reference to female domestic activity.

In Figure on Pedestal II the woman is encompassed by swirling drapery, reminiscent of the sculpture of St Veronica by Francesco Mochi (St. Peter’s, Rome) in which the drapery encompasses the imposing, authoritative saint while she is simultaneously stuck on a pedestal. They both give the impression that they are moving with purpose but are conversely trapped within a vortex.

My women are aware of the irony of having been finely balanced on pedestals. They have a quizzical attitude to their precarious predicament, and I draw reference from in particular, Antoine Watteau, Fête galante in a Wooded Landscape (The Wallace Collection) in which a nude is pictured as a sculpture coming to life, observing the scene before her. As an aside, she has insight and agency that gives her the option to get down from her pedestal and leave the stage at any time she chooses.”

On loan from the artist


by Lisa Milroy, oil on canvas, 2005

Lisa chose the title of this painting to challenge viewers to think about what might be lurking inside the pots: "perhaps those beautiful pots contain something unbearable". The unpainted strip at the bottom reminds us that the painting, like each of the pots, was handmade.

On loan from the artist

Harry Coover

by Stuart Cumberland, oil on linen, 2010

On loan from the artist

Rounded Swirls

by Dragica Carlin, oil on wood, 2016

On loan from the artist

Low Down of the Slow Down

by Phil Allen, oil on board, 2008

On loan from the artist

Natural History

by Carol Robertson, oil on canvas, 2005

On loan from the artist


by Carol Robertson, oil on canvas, 2001

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