The concept of a purpose-built gallery hub is not new. H Queen’s, which will soon host David Zwirner
and Hauser & Wirth
in Hong Kong, is a key example. But Cromwell Place, which cost £20 million ($26.7 million) to build, claims to be the first art business to offer flexible work space to the art world. It targets both out-of-town galleries looking to pop up in the capital, small and mid-size operations looking for alternatives to bricks-and-mortar, as well as fledgling businesses.
“The world is changing,” says Cromwell Place’s creative director, John Martin. “People don’t want huge financial burdens on their shoulders; they want to be nimble.”
The model encourages galleries to function like dealerships, staging shows as and when they need it. It also puts pressure on art fairs like Art Basel, which still insist that exhibitors have a permanent exhibition space. Martin says that this requirement was reasonable to expect of galleries 15 or 20 years ago.
“Now I don’t think it’s defensible,” he says. “I think it will change.”
The list of Cromwell Place galleries is yet to be announced, and it remains to be seen whether collectors will buy into the idea of their galleries becoming ad hoc showrooms. But if successful, Cromwell Place’s model could easily be scaled to other major and emerging art capitals and could bring significant changes to the nature of the business and the way art is consumed.
So, how’s London? It’s embattled, yes, but it’s not giving up. Londoners’ profoundly global outlook, can-do attitude, and ingrained business knowhow continue to thrive. I’ll never call Brexit an opportunity. It’s a fiasco brought in by petty political calculations, lies, and fear, and an insult to the 3.6 million European nationals that have chosen to call Britain home. But it’s forced all of us to choose our camp, and Londoners’ position is clear. Mayor Sadiq Khan’s post-Brexit campaign couldn’t have been more on point: #londonisopen.