It feels strange to be sitting in the future. By the way, the future is rather elegant, with very nice radiators and the largest sliding window in Europe. It’s also in South Kensington, which is hardest to believe. Can the future be here?
I’m in a tall, high-ceilinged room at 4 Cromwell Place, in the midst of a pretty terrace of Grade II listed Victorian townhouses, just steps from the tube station. Next month, five of them – numbers 1 through 5, which were stunningly renovated by architects Buckley Gray Yeoman for £ 20 million and connected at the back by a long glass corridor that gives access to a new pavilion gallery – will be a premier membership organization for the art world with 14 constantly changing gallery rooms, all of which are open to the public.
“It’s been four years of blood, sweat, and tears to come here, so we’re not going to let new restrictions get in the way,” says managing director Preston Benson when we meet with member director May Calil days after meeting the director The rule of six is vaguely announced.
Cromwell Place has the ability to transform the art industry. It was the brainchild of experienced Mayfair gallery owner John Martin who started the Dubai Art Fair. Rent increases pushed smaller and medium-sized galleries up and out of sight from their ground floor areas. Martin wondered if there was a way for galleries to have a walk-in presence, but temporarily and as needed – something that is now turning Covid’s need for flexibility and collaboration into an economic advantage for an industry that has found itself out of step with the switching times.
“In London, habits changed and so did the collecting habits,” says Calil. “There are so many art fairs now,” adds Benson. “Galleries are earning more and more money from traveling. So when you are not where you are [so much], [what if] You get rid of the gallery and still do four to six exhibitions a year and still do the art fairs? “
But what if there are no art fairs? Covid still plays a big role. Can the Cromwell Place model be an alternative in a world where people are less fond of traveling and even less fond of walking around in a big tent full of people? “That sounds ridiculous,” says Calil, but “we have a door. We have a lot of them. When we reach capacity, we close the door. You feel safe. “
Cromwell Place doesn’t just offer room rentals. Sure, there are 14 gallery rooms that members can book for as long as they want. However, members can be anyone in the art world: curators, consultants, secondary market dealers and institutions of all sizes – there is a free honorary membership that any non-profit arts organization can apply for (Camden Arts Center, Gasworks and the Contemporary Art Society are three London institutions that are already affiliated with each other have registered). In addition, there are offices, meeting rooms, open desks and, above all, state-of-the-art storage facilities and a highly trained in-house team of specialists.
And there are legal benefits – temporary admission is a tax break, which means you can import works of art to stay in the country for two years without paying import tax. Cromwell Place has an unlimited TA account that any of its members can use.
London exhibitions coming soon – in pictures
October 3 – January 24, National Gallery
National Gallery, London
November 5th, March 7th, Tate Modern
Courtesy of the artist and Stevenson, Cape Town / Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York © Zanele Muholi
Spring 2021-Spring 2022, Tate Modern
(Courtesy Ota Fine Arts and Victoria Miro)
October 7th to February 12th, Tate Modern
November 18th – May 9th Tate Britain
Michael Clark exhibition
October 7th – January 3rd, Barbican
Wildlife Photographer of the Year
October 2020, Natural History Museum
© Yongqing Bao
2021 (no dates yet), Royal Academy
November 21 to September 12, V&A Museum
The LIFE picture collection
Turner’s modern world
October 28th – March 7th Tate Britain
JMW Turner, Rain, Steam and Speed (The National Gallery)
Summer exhibition (in autumn)
October 6th – January 3rd, Royal Academy
David Parry / Royal Academy of Arts
Tracey Emin / Edvard Munch
November 15 – February 18, Royal Academy
Tracey Emin, It – dont stop – I dont stop, 2019 (HV-Studio, with kind permission of the artist and Xavier Hufkens)
There is also a more holistic side. When they first started, Calil, who had worked in the art world development division of the Wallace Collection, the Royal Academy of Arts and the Tate for more than a decade before starting her own consulting firm, had the job of figuring out what people wanted. “My first job was to find out who it really worked for, and one of the things that came up with it was a sense of loneliness. People work alone, and even when they are in rooms, the number of visitors drops. Therefore, the idea of a very industry-specific community in which you don’t compete was very attractive to people. “
The public can walk in at any time (if the Covid rules allow). The opening program of the exhibitions – which, by the way, will look great in these rooms – reflects the wide variety of art that Cromwell Place hopes to serve.
Lehmann Maupin London is transforming their space into Billy Childish’s working painting studio and will host an exhibition with Kader Attia, Shirazeh Houshiary, Lari Pittman and Nari Ward. An exhibition by the Sir Denis Mahon Foundation explores the concept of time and eternal life from ancient times to modern times, while the Edinburgh-based Ingleby Gallery shows new paintings from Scotland by Andrew Cranston, Kevin Harman, Lorna Robertson and Caroline Walker.
There are also two galleries in Dubai: Tabari Artspace presents the London debut of the Palestinian hyper-realist Samah Shihadi, while Lawrie Shabibi shows the Moroccan modernist Mohamed Melehi.
There is also a group exhibition of the 20 artists shortlisted for the Mother Art Prize – the only international award for self-identifying women and non-binary visual artists with caring responsibilities. Cromwell Place came to the rescue when the award’s original host announced that it could not reopen until January.
That’s not all, but it’s a good indication of what visitors can expect – pretty much everything.