Plans by The Cavendish Hotel to create two shops on the corner of Duke Street and Jermyn Street in central London mean tapestries and textiles specialist S Franses will be forced to leave the premises that has been its home for more than 25 years.
More than 50 objections have been lodged with Westminster City Council against the plans and now fellow St James's dealer Philip Mould has spoken out.
“We are strongly against the replacement of art galleries in St James's with more fashion houses,” said Mould. “Historically many of the finest art institutions in the world were established in St James's. The Royal Academy, National Gallery and the dealers in Mayfair and St James's being big draws for art lovers from around the world.”
“Over the past ten years many if not most of the Mayfair and St James's galleries and art businesses have been forced to relocate due to extortionate rental increases and the re-development of the neighbourhood.”
A planning committee is due to hear the Cavendish Hotel application in December.
Phillips of Ronald Phillips on Bruton Street said: “The potential loss of this gallery and archival space will further result in the diminution of the importance of this area historically associated with the both the arts and specialist retailers.
“S Franses plays a vital role as an almost unique specialist gallery... It is the last of the most outstanding dealers in this field of textiles and tapestries; but very importantly the loss of access to its unrivalled archive, library and research resource would be very detrimental to the ability of scholars, museum curators, collectors, and cognoscenti from around the world who conduct their research, due diligence and to further knowledge and understanding. “
Simon Franses, grandson of founder Sidney, has begun discussions with fellow gallery owners to form a pressure group called the St James’s Art District to try to protect the areas art and antiques tenants.
Franses told ATG: “The rising rents in Mayfair have displaced people to St James’s. But now the fashion brands have begun to attack us too. We have to preserve the art district here.”
The proposed redevelopment of 80-81 Jermyn Street has led to a range of international art experts to speak out and lodge objections including Philip Hewat-Jaboor, art consultant and chairman of Masterpiece London; Linda Parry, former keeper of textiles at the V&A; Jermyn Street dealers Titus Kendall and Guy Morrison as well as Jack Cassin from The Weaving Art Museum in New York and the Society of London Art Dealers (SLAD).
SLAD said to lose S Franses would further erode “the character and charm of what makes these areas so appealing to residents and visitors alike”.
Sara Stewart, owner of Fine Art Commissions which has just moved from Duke Street to Ryder Street, said: “It would be a tremendous shame to ‘Victoria Beckham’ Duke Street.
A spokeswoman for the hotel said Franses’s lease came to an end and an application for renewal is the subject of court proceedings.