“The Chelsea Arts Club is a private members club at 143 Old Church Street in Chelsea, London with a membership of over 3,800, including artists, sculptors, architects, writers, designers, actors, musicians, photographers, and filmmakers. The club was established on 21 March 1891 (in Chelsea), as a rival to the older Arts Club in Mayfair, on the instigation of the artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler, who had been a (sometimes controversial) member of the older club.
During its primary season from September–June the Chelsea Arts Club serves as a host for many functions, from instrumental and choral performances to visual arts exhibitions, literary talks, and weekend artist lunches.
Applicants for membership need to be sponsored by two current Members.
The club is located in the former Bolton Lodge, a Grade II listed building on the National Heritage List for England.
The Chelsea Arts Club was originally located in rooms at no. 181 King’s Road. In 1902, the club moved to larger premises at no. 143 Old Church Street. In 1933 the club’s premises, which had an acre of garden, were remodeled. The clubhouse includes a snooker room, bedrooms, dining room, former ‘ladies bar’ turned private party room, and a garden.
From 1908 to 1958 the club held a series of public fancy dress balls at the Albert Hall, latterly on New Year’s Eve, which raised funds for artists’ charities. In 1958, balls were banned from the Albert Hall owing their notoriety for rowdiness, nudity and public homosexuality (illegal before 1967). Subsequently, private functions were held at the club instead, with similarly lavish decorations and themes.
In 1966 the club was redecorated, a new bar was opened, and membership was opened to women artists.
Although normally a plain white building, the club exterior is occasionally painted (see above) to coincide with a themed event. It has been painted by set designer Tony Common. In 2010 it was painted bright colours with images of circus performers, and in 2011 was painted to appear as if it had been bombed in order to coincide with celebrations marking 70 years since the end of The Blitz.”