Arts hub

New South Kensington arts hub begins to woo its future clients

The multipurpose space could cut gallery operating costs by up to 40%

Cromwell Place Dan Weill Photography

Building work on the first co-working spaces for the art world at Cromwell Place in South Kensington begins mid-October. Before the £20m project to develop the space gets underway, gallery directors and curators are being given the opportunity to visit the site at a series of open mornings taking place daily during Frieze Week from 9am-12pm.

“It is very difficult for galleries to understand the scale of the project without visiting the buildings” John Martin

says the project’s creative director, John Martin. "This is an entire terrace of magnificent buildings, their gardens and the mews houses–the spaces we are creating for exhibitions are breath taking. Even in its raw state, galleries and other arts organisations will be able to see the incredible opportunity that Cromwell Place presents, and we’re excited to begin to introduce people to what we hope to establish as an extraordinary exhibition hub in the heart of London.”

The application process for new members begins in October with the first-round closing in February 2018, and the second round opening in March and closing in the summer of 2018. Cromwell Place aims to build a strong roster of leading UK and International galleries, curators and institutions, giving them complete flexibility as to how they use the spaces. As well as exhibition space and art storage, Cromwell Place will provide offices, meeting rooms, six viewing rooms and a mirrored Club Room. The Club Room was originally designed for the society painter Sir John Lavery and his wife, Hazel, and will become the social hub of Cromwell Place when it opens in 2019.

An affluent residential neighbourhood full of British and international art collectors, and with Bonhams’ Knightsbridge salesroom close by, South Kensington is devoid of major commercial art galleries; most high-end dealers are in Mayfair, the historic gallery district, while emerging dealers are in cheaper spaces in south or east London instead. Councillor Tim Coleridge, cabinet member for planning policy, transport and arts for Kensington and Chelsea council, says the scheme would bring “something new and innovative to London’s art scene… and hopefully inspire future generations of artists, gallerists and collectors”.

Martin says that the flexibility of the structure is designed to service as many different types of exhibitors as possible. “Cromwell Place can serve as a principle base for a UK gallery wishing to maintain a more effective year-round exhibition programme in London; for overseas galleries wishing to build a sustainable, longterm platform in the second biggest art market, they can keep an office or simply start with an annual show, increasing the frequency as they develop their collector base; it can be an additional space for a London or regional gallery needing a specialist venue for large-scale sculpture or video which we can cope with. Finally it works for secondary market art dealers who require the convenience of elegant, central London viewing rooms and art storage, whether they want to stage an exhibition or not.

“Galleries now need something more flexible and spaces that are far more efficient in terms of time, cost and logistical support”

Martin says. For those moving their entire operations to the new buildings, he estimates that Cromwell Place could cut operating costs for galleries by 30% to 40%.

The year’s programme of exhibitions will be shaped by a maximum of 80 members — mainly galleries, curators and private dealers — who will be required to book spaces in advance. “We love the idea of constantly rotating shows and the possibility of interesting collaborations between the Members. The ability to work in a collegiate way will be a big factor in the selection process,” Martin says.

To register for Frieze Week Open Mornings please click the link below.