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Property mogul David Roberts building Camden gallery to house contemporary art collection

Scottish businessman to open public space

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Hot on the heels of Anita Zabludowicz’s new exhibition space in Camden which opened in September, another London-based collector is planning to show his art in a super-size building (12,000 sq. ft) nearby. Until recently, David Roberts, the modest Scottish property investor who owns more than 2,000, mainly contemporary works, has enjoyed a comparatively low-profile in the art market.

“Three years ago I would get around 60 emails a day that were mostly work-related. I now get many more and they are almost entirely art related,” he told The Art Newspaper.

Mr Roberts initially attracted media attention in autumn 2006 when he acquired all eight of Keith Coventry’s works on view at London’s Fine Art Society prior to the sale (some of the works were unfinished at the time). More recently, he bought Damien Hirst’s skeletal installation The Adoration, 2007, and one of the cancer biopsy-based paintings from the “Beyond Belief” exhibition at White Cube this summer.

His Camden space is currently being renovated and will not open for at least another 18 months. In the meantime, he is showing his collection on a rotating basis at Gallery One One One at 111 Great Titchfield Street which stands out among the print shops and factory outlets near London’s BT tower. He also has plans to allow emerging artists to use his One One One space for a selling show every one to two years for which he will not charge any commission (dealers normally take a 50% cut of sales). The first such exhibition, “Anticipation”, was held in his gallery in May.

Mr Roberts started collecting about 15 years ago, having been inspired by Salvador Dalí’s Christ of St John of the Cross, 1951, then in Glasgow’s City Art Gallery. Works in his collection today range from the Paolozzi prints he bought several years ago to a huge Gerry Judah painting, Angels 05, 2006 (on display at 111) and Gilbert & George’s Pixie Hill, 2005, which he loaned to Tate Modern for its retrospective this year.

He notes the trend for collectors to open public spaces and, while this is not just a UK phenomenon, he cites the tax system in the UK—as distinct from the US—as discouraging collectors who might otherwise loan their works to a museum.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'From property to art'