“I find, even in my market research, that at art galleries people don’t look up or try to engage you in the artwork, and sometimes that can feel kind of intimidating,” says Charles, 40. “And I don’t ever want anyone to feel that way at 11:Eleven.”
Charles initially began her career as a teenager at Christie’s auctions before leaving the art world in her 20s to become a tax accountant in England. She quit her job in 2017 and went traveling around the world for roughly six months. It was during that time when she went to Trinidad, Cuba, and had an epiphany.
“We went into this bar, which was a gallery-type place, and as I walked through the door, it just hit me that I should have an art gallery and get back into the arts,” she says.
She had a similar eureka moment while visiting the District shortly afterward, noting that she had a “gut feeling” the city was the right place to open a gallery. She then spent most of 2018 working at a gallery in London and traveling to the District to research before opening 11:Eleven in 2019. On her D.C. Dream Day, Charles steps back from British culture to go on an American history tour.
My grandmother would be flown in from England to make my breakfast. After that, we would go down to see the monuments and memorials [on the Mall] for an American history tour, because I think they’re just so beautiful and magnificent. As a Brit, I don’t feel very close to American history in that way, so when you’re walking around through the monuments or you’re looking at them, you just feel so much closer to the history.
Then we would move on to Artechouse and switch it up a little bit. It is an exciting space and you can fully immerse yourself in the artwork. It’s just a different type of artistic experience to what you get more or less anywhere else.
My nan is 84 (in England we call a grandmother a nan), so she would probably be tired at this point. We’d head to Navy Yard for lunch and have a picnic down by the water at Yards Park so we can talk about and reflect on the morning. We would get our food from Taco City DC and get octopus tacos. Oh my God, they’re the best!
We’d go to the Mansion on O & O Street Museum, and the reason for that is because it really is an amazing step back into time. It was originally five townhouses in Dupont Circle, and they converted it into a mansion. For celebrities, when police would knock or anyone would come, there are all these secret doors so nobody would ever be seen or caught. Everything in there is for sale. A lot of the things in there were donated by celebrities and guests, as it’s also a hotel.
Then we’d go to Jojo Restaurant and Bar on U Street for dinner and some live music. It’s a basement bar that feels kind of hidden. I know it’s on U Street, but once you step in there you feel so far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. We’d get ribs.
I’d also go to Arena Stage. I’ve seen loads of shows there, but I’ve never planned [what I wanted to see in advance]. I love the idea that you can literally just walk up and if you show up 30 minutes before the show you get tickets half-price because it makes the experience more accessible to everybody. And for me, that’s an important aspect of everything that I do.
Then we would top it off with a nightcap at the W Hotel for the views of the city. I really like the W here. It doesn’t feel as pretentious as the other Ws I’ve been to around the world. But it still feels like a clean, safe place to be.