‘Art world royalty’ bring investment to Braemar

Iwan and Manuela Wirth will open the Fife Arms this winter. Picture: John Phillips/Getty Images for Hauser & Wirth
Iwan and Manuela Wirth will open the Fife Arms this winter. Picture: John Phillips/Getty Images for Hauser & Wirth
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They are considered royalty of the art world with their international empire including galleries in New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Geneva.

Now Iwan and Manuela Wirth have set about redesigning the fortunes of a small village in the heart of Deeside.

It is hoped the couple’s investment in Braemar will create a golden moment in the village not felt since Queen Victoria made the area the most fashionable destination of the day.

The Wirths have bought two hotels in Braemar, with the opening of the Fife Arms – scheduled for this winter – hailed by the style press as one of the most anticipated of the year.

The couple, who are originally from Switzerland, have also bought the Invercauld Arms Hotel in the village and have supported the arts venue, St Margaret’s, with a £50,000 donation.

The money will allow a programme of concerts, talks and exhibitions to run at the Grade A listed church, which was built in the late 19th century to house congregations of English tourists during the summer season at the height of its Victorian popularity.

It is hoped the Wirth’s financial commitment to the area will help create a new buzz around Braemar and encourage those who have headed down the A83 for a view of Balmoral to continue their journey into the village.

“The Wirths are pouring money into the village. It hasn’t had this level of investment since the Victorian times. People are excited,” one source said.

The Wirths, who took the number one spot in the ArtReview Power 100 list in 2015 and made the seventh spot last year, were keen to move to Scotland and own a Highland estate, according to sources. Mr Wirth had his own tartan designed, calling upon fashion legend Sir Paul Smith for the job.

The Fife Arms Hotel will combine luxury, style, tradition and art in the imposing former hunting lodge which will feature a heather-clad courtyard, cocktail bar and spa.

Mrs Wirth told Gentlewoman magazine in 2016 that the couple bought the hotel to indulge their love of entertaining, given the lack of good restaurants and hotels in the area.

While keen to create a place that is attractive for tourists from all over the world, the Fife Arms will be “lively and very welcoming” for locals, she said.

The hotel is advertising for at least ten staff with the revival of the hotel now warmly anticipated, not just by the village but also by the world’s style watchers. Condé Nast Traveller magazine hailed it as one of the top hotel openings of 2018.

The couple also own an art gallery, bar and grill on a farm in Somerset.

In Braemar, they are supporting new ventures through the Wirth Family Trust and their company, Highland Hospitality.

Brian Wood, deputy convenor of the board of the Cairngorms National Park Authority and chairman of St Margaret’s, said: “The donation from the Wirths has made it possible for us to run a programme and gives us reassurance that there is money to cover costs.

“We hope to attract an additional type of visitor to Braemar. For many, the heritage, Highland Games and landscape would be attraction. Now, we’re hoping out high quality arts venue will appeal to a wider range of tourists.”

Mr and Mrs Wirth were unavailable for interview.