Steve Lazarides, the street art dealer who is credited with launching Banksy’s career, is opening a flagship gallery in Mayfair in January. The new business, called Lazinc, is a joint venture between Lazarides and the Qatari magnate Wissam Al Mana, who has invested a “seven-figure” sum.
The investment came around two years ago, “when things were really tough”, Lazarides says. He has since shut his Rathbone Place gallery to make the move to Mayfair. “Wissam is far from a money man, he is really hands on and has a great eye. I finally have someone to share the pain with,” he quips. Al Mana, who divorced the US singer Janet Jackson earlier this year, is an avid collector with “minimalist tastes”, according to Lazarides.
The 4,000 sq. ft space on Sackville Street includes two ground-floor galleries for exhibitions by artists including JR, Invader, Mark Jenkins and Vhils. Lazarides also plans to expand his secondary market business, which until now has largely been focused on Banksy.
Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring are in his sights, although the dealer acknowledges the difficulty in consigning works. “Everything is starting to catch up. Basquiat is out of everyone’s remit, so people are reaching for Haring. But even Haring is out of most people’s remit, so they are starting to reach for Banksy,” he says.
Banksy’s secondary market is booming, the dealer says, noting that he has just sold his first painting by the Bristolian street artist for more than a million pounds. The work was part of Banksy’s legendary Barely Legal show in Los Angeles in 2006. “It didn’t go to a celebrity,” is all Lazarides will say. “Banksy’s studio might have sold works for more than a million, but it's a first for the secondary market,” he stresses.
It is a huge mark up. At the beginning of his relationship with Banksy, in the early 1990s, Lazarides sold the artist’s screen prints for just £25 each. In 2014, the same prints had risen in value to tens of thousands of pounds. Last November, Lazarides opened a smaller gallery on the South Bank that specialises in secondary market Banksy prints.
Lazarides says he “wrestled” with opening a gallery in Mayfair. “I am going to get a tidal wave of shite saying I’ve sold out,” he says. “But it’s not about me. The artists I show are really shifting through the gears, they deserve to be here, kicking it with the biggest and best.” He points out that Jonathan Yeo, whom Lazarides has worked with since 2008, is part of a group exhibition opening at the nearby Royal Academy of Arts in December.
Lazinc gallery is launching with a show by the French street photographer JR (12 January-28 February), including never before seen studio plans, drawings and prototypes used to realise his Giants series displayed during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. Exhibitions by eL Seed, the Miaz Brothers and Estevan Oriol are planned for next year.
Rents in Mayfair are notoriously steep and have pushed out several dealers in recent years. But Lazarides detects a sea change. “People are coming back to Mayfair,” he says. “We will either survive or disappear and I’m not about to disappear.”