The new association, called St James’s Art District, comes in the wake of a series of property deals and developments that threaten to change the character of an area long synonymous with the London art market.
Most recently, plans by the Cavendish Hotel to create two shops on the corner of Duke Street and Jermyn Street mean tapestries, textiles and carpets specialist S Franses will be forced to leave the premises that have been its home for more than 25 years.
Simon Franses, grandson of founder Sidney, has begun discussions with fellow gallery owners including Colnaghi, Sladmore Gallery and Peter Finer to form the St James’s Art District.
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.”
A planning committee is due to hear the Cavendish Hotel application in December. The proposal has already attracted more than 30 objections (see below), many relating to the importance of the Franses Tapestry Archive which is based in the shop.
A spokeswoman for the hotel said Franses’s lease came to an end and an application for renewal is the subject of court proceedings.
A second deal further down Duke Street – the sale of the lease of number 13 – could force Old Master dealer Johnny van Haeften and Cartier specialist Harry Fane to leave their premises next year.
Clusters of Specialists
The idea of a local association comes as Westminster City Council introduces new planning policy in an attempt to protect traditional businesses in areas such as Cork Street, Savile Row, Harley Street and St James’s.
Due to come into effect following ratification at a council meeting on November 9, the policy for St James’s is designed to “support and enhance its international reputation as a centre for the art trade”.
The council said it will “work with landowners to protect and promote clusters of specialists”.
More than 35 objections to the redevelopment at 80-81 Jermyn Street by the Cavendish Hotel have been filed with Westminster City Council.
They come from a variety of experts such as 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)
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.”