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Sunday Edition #62: House of Spoils

Anatomē has recently welcomed new neighbours to Chiltern Street: House of Spoils, a photography-focussed art gallery offering high-quality framed prints for your home. 

Amidst the hustle of their opening week, we sat down to talk with Max Samis and Bijan Gharavi about how they aim to turn the traditional gallery space on its head, and why investing in art for your home can help you stay inspired. 

K: So what’s the origin story of House of Spoils?

Bijan: So, Max is from New York and I’m from LA. The real genesis story goes back over 10 years ago. Max started Mr. Spoils, which was a daily culture newsletter— very brief, with a cool article to read, a photographer to follow, a live set to listen to, things like that.

A quick read in the morning, delivering some refreshing culture instead of immediately diving into work. He was working in a tech job at the time, and it’s funny— he loves to talk about how he sent it to all his friends, and on the first day he had nine subscribers, and on the next day he had four. [laughs]

But, you know, he didn't know what was gonna happen, he just kept doing it. And there's something to his particular style that he's able to curate that resonates with a lot of people. And before we knew it, about a year in, he was up to half a million subscribers.

My buddy, who used to be Tom Ford's right-hand man, was like, ‘Dude, everyone in the office was saying, did you read Mr. Spoils today?’

So, through the newsletter, Max is establishing relationships with amazing photographers, and soon, the idea came about to actually sell prints. He realised we've got these people who have such profoundly awesome content, and it lives only on their Instagram page. And when it comes to printing and framing, shipping fulfilment, import duties, sales tax— there's so many elements to it that a lot of photographers just say, screw it. 

And so it's around this time he was moving to LA, and he was marinating on this notion of having an online art gallery. At that time, I was a lawyer at Spotify, doing business affairs, but I’ve always been interested in doing something entrepreneurial, so I jumped in.

K: When did you have your first physical space?

B: The first physical space happened in 2018 in Culver City. And we literally had decals on the floor with arrows pointing at the artwork that said ‘touch me’ — the whole point was like, come in, pick it up. Feel it. It's not gonna break. It's not a million dollar piece of art, we’re not Sotheby’s.

The whole idea was to turn the traditional gallery experience on its head. 

And through this, the artists we work with have now basically become part of our family. We're not a traditional gallery in the sense that it's like, ‘Okay, send us your work, and we'll email you in a month.’ If we sell anything, we're constantly engaging with them. They're going out and shooting and sending it to us. It’s a dialogue.

K: I'm interested in the dynamic between you and Max, because you know, every creative person needs their spreadsheet friend— is that how you feel you two work together? 

B: That's very much it. Max is very much on the design. If it's going to be aesthetic-related, that’s him. And then I need to figure out how to get a VAT number in the UK, make sure our duties are paid and all that sort of stuff. So we certainly have our own lanes.

But for us, it just started as friends. It was like, how cool would it be if we could do this? There’s this part of our relationship where we just sit down and brainstorm and have fun and have crazy ideas. So that’s really what it’s about.

K: What do you think investing in art for your home can do for your personal wellbeing?

Max: Bijan and I talk a lot about the art of living. I mean, not to sound kitschy, but these photographers are creating art while they're out there living their best possible lives. So the story behind each one of these photographs is a great day. 

And so for the customer, I think it’s a window, a reminder and an inspiration to get out there. You're working to live, not living to work.

If you’re putting art on your wall, it means something to you. [Max points to a print hanging beside him.] If you have this hanging on your wall, chances are you don’t have this half-a-million-dollar car, but maybe it’s a beacon of inspiration to you. It’s something you’re gonna look up at from your desk or your dining room table that reminds you what else is out there, or what you’re working towards.

It’s my hope that each one of these photos is inspiring to people, and I don’t even think you need to know the story behind the photos to be inspired, but if you care to unpack it and learn the photographer’s story, then even better. 

Pop to their store - House of Spoils -  40 Chiltern St, London W1U 7LQ

You can also shop their prints on their website.

Written by:
Kaytie Nielsen

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