The London dealer Alison Jacques is moving into a new 6,000 sq. ft headquarters on Cork Street this autumn after 16 years on Berner's Street, in the nearby West End. “I just felt it was time to step up—we need more space for our artists and it’s clear that Mayfair is the centre [for galleries],” she says. Jacques will maintain her Berner's Street space for now, though future plans are “not clear”.
According to the dealer, Cork Street has always been the epitome of the London art market. As she puts it: “It’s full of nostalgia; I had a romantic dream of opening opposite [Leslie] Waddington.” Jacques credits the late dealer, who in 1966 began his gallery that eventually became Waddington Custot, with kickstarting her career as a gallerist; it was in her previous job as a journalist, while Jacques was interviewing Waddington, that he offered her a job in his gallery. Other pioneering dealers who had spaces on Cork Street—to whom Jacques pays her dues—include Victoria Miro, John Kasmin, James Mayor and Bernard Jacobson.
Cork Street, which has been managed by the Pollen Estate since 2016, has swollen and contracted over the years. Jacques will now join Goodman Gallery and Stephen Friedman, which opens a large new space formerly occupied by Saatchi Yates this autumn. Frieze Art Fair has a gallery hub at number 9.
The new three-storey space, at number 22 (part of which was previously inhabited by Lisson Gallery on a temporary contract), is being refurbished by the architect Mike Rundell. “There are very few spaces in central Mayfair that you can essentially completely rebuild and make it as you want,” Jacques says. The new venue includes one gallery with a five-metre-tall ceiling, “which gives an incredible blank canvas”, she adds.
The first show will be of new work by the textile artist Sheila Hicks, who is 88, followed by an exhibition of the late American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Jacques says the gallery will continue its work “discovering or rediscovering artists who haven’t had their dues, particularly women artists”. Recent additions to the gallery programme include Hastings-based artist Sophie Barber, the Macedonian/Serbian artist Ljiljana Blazevska, Jane Dickson (who Jacques picked up after she was included in the 2022 Whitney Biennial) and the Turner Prize-winning artist Veronica Ryan.
As well as focusing on mid-career artists and estates, Jacques says she plans to take on “a younger generation of artists—those who we want to nurture and build their careers”.
Opening a large space in Mayfair is certainly a statement of intent, and Jacques believes London will remain a crucial centre for the international art market. So, are the effects of Brexit diminishing?
“Brexit hasn’t been an issue for us,” Jacques says. “For us, importing works to the UK has become easier. Before, a client importing works by, say, Maria Bartuszová, whose estate is based in Slovakia, or Sheila Hicks in Paris would have had to pay 20% VAT and now they only pay 5%. That is a significant difference when you are talking about works worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. It’s cultivated a stronger UK based buying.”