London’s Cromwell Place, an innovative gallery hub spanning five Grade II listed townhouses, will finally open on 10 October 2020. Its original opening date in May 2020 was delayed, like many other events across the world, due to the outbreak of coronavirus.
After four years of development, Cromwell Place will offer UK-based and international art dealers a flexible space to exhibit and store artworks in South Kensington. The 14 galleries include exhibition rooms, offices, meeting rooms, storage and a members club.
“The days of going up and down Albemarle Street sipping champagne at multiple openings seem to be over. These days there’s much more interest in the fair model,” explained the centre’s managing director Preston Benson. “There is a demand for a new model which frees gallerists and art advisers from their permanent spaces and allows them to stage shows in London while doing the same around the world.”
Considering the pandemic’s financial implications, the hub also provides gallery owners with an alternative to rising London rents. John Martin, co-founder of the project, said “the great problem with Mayfair is the rents. Smaller, single-location galleries don’t have the turnover to cover premium rents and compete with global businesses in the art and fashion world. Cromwell Place seeks to support these independent grassroots galleries.”
Benson added: “As terrible as the past six months have been, Covid has accelerated existing trends—it has moved things ahead three to five years, we’re now living in a state that was expected in 2023 or 2024 with the death of the high-street and growth of online shopping. A lot of galleries don’t see the value of paying 100% of their rent, 100% of the time, so we’ve had more enquiries.”
Almost 40 businesses are now signed up as members, which allows them to hire the exhibition spaces for between two to six weeks at a time. Visitors will have the chance to see several shows and dealers in a single visit.
Boodle Hatfield, the leading private wealth law firm, advised Cromwell Place on securing one of the first loans from the UK government’s Future Fund loans. The £500 million scheme has provided innovative businesses with financial support throughout the pandemic.
“We’re delighted to have been able to help a truly innovative business get the funding it needed to prevent the pandemic affecting its launch programme,” stated Boodle Hatfield Associate Fred Clark about their client’s successful application.
Although the grand opening has been cancelled to comply with new government regulations, VIP events will take place during the week of 5-9 October for members. The event coincides with “Frieze Week”, which assumes a one-off online format this year too.