In a new blow to art and antiques dealers who are increasingly being priced out of London’s West End, seven of the 22 galleries in Mayfair’s Cork Street have been informed that their leases will not be renewed next year.
The announcement heralds redevelopment plans
by a new landlord. The premises at 29-30 Old Burlington Street,
which includes a stretch of Cork Street, is being sold by the
current landlords, British insurance firm Standard Life
Investments, to a partnership consisting of London property
developers Native Land, Singapore-based Hotel Properties Limited
(HPL) and Malaysian investment firm Amcorp, for a reported
The sale was announced on the Native Land
website on August 1 and will be completed over the next few
Native Land say they are currently working
up plans to replace the existing 83,000 sq ft building with "a
luxury apartment block, with art galleries and restaurants" at
street level, planned to be completed by 2016.
The Mayfair street has for the past 100
years been internationally renowned for its cluster of commercial
art dealers, largely dealing in modern art, and this short stretch
is unusual in that its street-level spaces are still almost solely
populated by art galleries.
The galleries affected - Mayor Gallery,
Alpha Gallery, Adam Gallery, Beaux Arts, Gallery 27, Waterhouse
& Dodd and Stoppenbach & Delestre - were told in mid-August
that their leases, which all end around June 2013, will not be
However at the time of writing, galleries
had not been served notice but a few longer-term tenants had been
given details of compensation packages. No planning application for
redevelopment has as yet been submitted to Westminster Council, so
some dealers were hopeful there might be space for negotiation to
extend the lease.
Above: the galleries in Cork
Many similar disputes, such as that over
Burlington Arcade, have involved a listed building, but the Cork
Street site is an unattractive late 20th century design which,
according to one occupant, is already showing its age, with poor
drainage and is prone to flooding.
Chief executive of Native Land, Alasdair
Nicholls, cited the building's proximity to "the fine art galleries
of Cork Street and bespoke tailoring of Savile Row" in the
But while there is a promise to include
gallery space within the redevelopment, this will not be ready
until 2016 if Native Land meet their target completion date.
Native Land told
<iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii>ATG: "The existing building has reached
the end of its economic life. We intend that our future proposals
will provide a quality of accommodation that respects the location
of Cork Street as part of the international art market place."
They added that it was very early days in
the project and therefore too early to go into details about what
might be in the new development.
But the main concern of the dealers is that
they will not be able to compete financially with fashion houses
and luxury goods businesses able to pay steeper rents who may in
fact take over these new spaces post-development.
While the galleries' futures are not yet set
in stone, James Mayor, whose father founded the Mayor Gallery in
1925, seemed resigned to the fact that he would have to move.
"I only heard last week that the lease will
not be reissued, so I have not thought yet about what I will do
now. But ten months is not a long time to find a new space and lots
of other galleries are looking for space in the West End - smaller
spaces have been made into larger ones and rents are
"Our current small spaces are ideal for
specialist modern galleries, while the big contemporary galleries
want more space."
He added: "Why do we need more luxury
residential spaces in Mayfair when there are already so many that
sit empty? It's pointless; they are all bought by overseas
investors and push up the price for office and retail space."
Mayor described such developments as
"short-sighted" and Christopher Battiscombe, secretary general of
the Society of London Art Dealers, echoed his thoughts.
He said: "These property developers and
landlords may make money in the short term by selling for
residential redevelopment or renting to fashion houses, but in the
long term they are getting rid of the very reason many people come
to these areas of London, for the art and antiques.
"It's very sad news. Cork Street is such a
centre of the art world and is one of the few remaining streets in
the area that is exclusively owned or leased by galleries. It draws
people from all over the world."
Mr Battiscombe pointed to the fact
that parts of St James's had been made Special Policy Areas by
Westminster Council to protect the private clubs and art galleries
that are synonymous with the area. SLAD has contacted the council
to propose that Cork Street be awarded similar protected status but
such a scheme might take a couple of years to implement.