March 24 (Bloomberg) -- Per Skarstedt is the latest New York dealer to open in London as the city’s existing galleries expand to profit from growing demand.
Skarstedt plans an offshoot in the Mayfair area, its owner said in an e-mail. London-based Marlborough Fine Art, which represented Francis Bacon, is also planning a new space in the same area, its management said. Manhattan dealer David Zwirner will also come to the British capital in October, its new U.K. director said.
Contemporary-art dealers have been encouraged by a growing number of wealthy people from outside Britain buying properties as a hedge against economic and political instability, even as the U.K. government raises taxes on luxury homes. Many visitors will be in the British capital for this year’s Olympics.
“We have been contemplating opening something in Europe for some time now,” Skarstedt, founder of the dealership that specializes in 1980s American art, said. “So many New York galleries are having a presence in London now.”
Skarstedt Gallery plans a first-floor 2,500 square-foot (232 square meter) space at 23 Old Bond Street, Mayfair, in June to coincide with the summer auctions, company director Brady Doty said in an interview.
“It does feel unprecedented,” Andrew Renton, director of the new contemporary arm of Mayfair-based Marlborough, said in an interview. “Twenty years ago, the dealers were concentrated in one street. You used to have to get on a plane to look at good new art. Now there are many galleries all around us. London seems strategically better placed for everyone.”
Marlborough is making a 2,000-square-foot contemporary gallery on the first floor of its Albemarle Street building. The space will open during the week of the Frieze Art Fair in October.
Zwirner will open his 10,000-square-foot branch at nearby 24 Grafton Street in October, a year after Pace Gallery established itself in London’s Soho.
International clients accounted for almost three quarters of the sales of “ultraprime” homes valued at more than 5 million pounds ($7.9 million) in 2011, realtors Savills Plc said on Jan. 17.
The Mayfair district -- the most expensive square on a U.K. Monopoly board game -- has become a locus for galleries. Hotels such as Claridge’s and the Connaught accommodate art buyers during auction weeks.
“Location is important,” said Pilar Ordovas, who debuted as a dealer last year with a Bacon exhibition at her gallery in Savile Row near Sotheby’s, Bond Street. “A number of collectors have second homes in Mayfair. It’s more convenient for them if they can walk to a gallery and stand in front of the works.”
Ordovas is the former head of Christie’s International’s London contemporary art department.
Zwirner’s gallery is located in a five-story Georgian townhouse remodeled by architect Annabelle Selldorf. The opening “Frieze Week” show will present new paintings by the Belgian artist Luc Tuymans.
“London is at the center of the European art world,” said Angela Choon, Zwirner’s U.K.-based director. “It’s the gateway to collectors throughout Europe, as well as the Middle East and Asia. After concentrating on our own expansion in New York over the past few years, this was the next logical step.” The U.S. dealership is also planning to open a 30,000 square-foot space at 537 West 20th Street in Chelsea, New York, later this year.
London has 5,955 inhabitants each with a net worth of more than $30 million, the highest density in Europe, according to Wealth-X, a company that compiles data on affluent individuals. Billionaire collectors such as Roman Abramovich, Victor Pinchuk and Lily Safra have properties in the U.K. capital.
The city’s auctions of Impressionist, modern and contemporary art in February raised 291.5 million pounds, a record for a series of such mixed-owner sales in Europe. Growth in the market has been influenced by a rapid increase in the number of super-wealthy collectors, said a report published earlier this month by the European Fine Art Foundation.
“There is now much more concentration of spending at the
very top end of the market,” said the report. This in turn has encouraged the development of the international “mega-gallery” with multiple locations, such as Zwirner.
London-based Blain|Southern will be opening a 5,000 square-foot gallery in Mayfair’s Hanover Square during “Frieze Week.” The space will be added to the dealership’s existing locations in Dering Street and Hill Street in Mayfair.
Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth and White Cube -- which opened a 58,000-square-foot space in Bermondsey in October 2011 -- run similar multi gallery operations in the U.K. capital.
Other Mayfair newcomers include the New York-based dealership Eykyn Maclean, a specialist in 19th- and 20th-century works, which opened in St. George Street in February.
Gazelli Art House, a commercial contemporary gallery founded by the Azerbaijani curator Mila Askarova, premiered in Dover Street with the four-artist international group show “Bodhi” on March 15.
“We’re seeing French, Germans, Spanish, Russians and Saudis,” Askarova said in an interview. “Most of them have properties in London that they visit. Mayfair will always be Mayfair, whatever happens in the economy.”
(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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