London's new art galleries

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    Oak-panelled opulence: Hauser & Wirth's Piccadilly gallery

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    Hauser & Wirth’s West End gallery is in a former bank in Piccadilly (4); the ceiling mouldings, oak-panelled walls and balcony give it an air of Edwardian formality that seems inappropriate for contemporary art and yet artists like Paul McCarthy and Jason Rhoades have stuck two fingers up to propriety with huge, messy installations involving poured chocolate, spattered paint and soft porn there.

    Why, then, have the duo taken over Coppermill, a large industrial space in Cheshire Street, off Brick Lane (5)? ‘Paul McCarthy was able to use the entire building in Piccadilly, but now we have offices and an archive there,’ explains Iwan Wirth. ‘We were looking for a space that would allow large-scale sculptures and installations and last year, when McCarthy showed at the Whitechapel, they found us this building. We can now show paintings by a young Polish artist [Jakub Julian Ziólkowski] in Piccadilly at the same time as an overwhelming installation by Christoph Buchel in Coppermill.’

    They’ve also gone west to Bond Street (6), the heart of the establishment, where they are sharing a building with Colnaghi, one of the oldest firms in the business. ‘It will be interesting to be with such an established company,’ says Wirth, ‘and we’ll collaborate on two shows a year. We’re very active in the secondary market, but we had no room to exhibit the work so we’re taking over three floors to show old and contemporary masters. We’ve also outgrown Piccadilly. We started in 2003 with five staff and we now have 15; because we’ll be doing three shows at a time, it will be a lot of work.’

    Into deep space: Hauser & Wirth's Coppermill gallery

    Their first show, of nudes by Francis Picabia dating from 1939–42, demonstrates Wirth’s unerring ability to get it right. ‘Picabia is a long-term favourite of mine,’ he says. ‘Alongside Duchamp, he’s the artists’ artist – a link between modern masters and contemporary art.’ Will the Bond Street gallery attract different collectors? He doesn’t think so: ‘Collectors are becoming very eclectic these days; people who started looking at old masters and antiques have begun buying contemporary work. And they mix things up in their houses – hanging a Raymond Pettibon, say, next to an old master drawing. And more and more collectors are seriously following what’s going on. They don’t just go to art fairs, flip through catalogues or follow a shopping list, but go to the Venice Biennale and Documenta and see museum exhibitions.’

    Why is the London art market so buoyant? ‘Everything came together – the YBAs, Charles Saatchi, Tate Modern and Frieze – to produce just the right recipe. It’s a global phenomenon, but Frieze and Tate Modern are the epicentre – the point zero. Then there’s the city itself; London is the most vibrant city in Europe, and probably in the world, because people are thinking internationally. We came to London because we guessed it would be the art capital of Europe; we wanted to have a window here and be part of the development of this important market. Half our collectors are American and half European; we also sell to museums and advise companies on their collections.’ Will the bubble burst? ‘No it won’t burst, it will just stop. Prices won’t go down but no deals will be made.’


    Having abandoned Heddon Street for an industrial space in King’s Cross (7), why has Gagosian decided to open a small gallery in Davies Street (8)? ‘It’s important to have a toe in the West End,’ says Stefan Ratibor. ‘We chose Britannia Street because of the space not the geography; it is big enough to allow exciting projects, but it is a destination place; people who are interested go to King’s Cross specially to see a show. Our new gallery is a lovely little space designed by Caruso St John and it will catch a different audience.’

    Gagosian moved here eight years ago, before Tate Modern opened in 2006. What was the incentive? ‘We were becoming international and needed a leg in Europe,’ explains Ratibor. ‘We were the first outsiders to come and give our London colleagues a boost and it has been very positive. London is the gateway to Europe and people are more mobile and travel more willingly than they used to. Collectors from Germany, Greece and France will be coming to the Jeff Koons opening to celebrate his success.’

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