LONDON — Timothy Taylor, the London-based art dealer, is growing up — and spreading out — with a new gallery he hopes will alter the face of London’s West End. Spanning 4,500 square feet, Taylor’s new space is located in one of Anthony d’Offay’s former galleries at 24 Dering Street.
“I want to bring a sense of scale and volume to the West End,” said Taylor during a tour of the gallery. “I want this to be one of the best exhibition spaces in London — a place where artists want to show and where I can stage major, large-scale shows.”
The gallery’s ground level boasts seamless concrete floors, which can make it difficult to determine the scale and size of the paintings. It’s also completely open, with just one reception desk positioned at the back, and off to one side. Indeed, the new space stands out in the West End, where many of the galleries are a series of separate rooms with creaky wooden floors and the reception near the door.
The new gallery is about five times bigger than Taylor’s former Bruton Place gallery, a two-floor space he opened in 1996, but which he eventually found too small. The retail value of the stock exhibited in the opening exhibition of the new gallery was in excess of $5 million. Dollar figures have been converted from the pound at current exchange.
The inaugural show, which opened last month, was a group featuring — what else? — large, mostly new works by the artists Taylor represents. The trees in Alex Katz “Poplars” towered over the viewer, while Philip Guston’s “Crescent” sun rose large and imposing from the gallery’s back wall. Taylor says of Guston’s 1976 painting: “That is the yardstick by which I judge everything else.”
New works on display were by artists including Miguel Barcelo, Jonathan Lasker, Richard Patterson, Jean-Marc Bustamante, Willem de Kooning, Joel Shapiro and Fiona Rae.
Last week, Taylor unveiled “Wall of Light, Figures,” a series of works by New York-based Sean Scully, who last showed in the U.K. in 1999 at the South London Gallery. The show, which runs until July 12, will be followed by an exhibition of life-size photographs by Mario Testino. Called “Disciples,” it features 12 images from the Catholic Church. Later this year, Taylor has scheduled shows by Lasker, Rae and Bustamante.
Eric Parry, the architect who is also at work on the London Stock Exchange’s new headquarters in Paternoster Square, designed Taylor’s new gallery. Parry said he wanted the art to mold the space: “Like switching a light on in a darkened room, the gallery spaces will be given shape and scale by the art that will be placed in them.” The inspiration, he said, was Alex Katz’s comment that the “ideal” space looks like nothing special until there is something in it.
“The space is neutral but not dry, and there’s no element of ‘design’ as such. Everything here functions,” said Taylor, who perused New York’s uptown and downtown galleries before starting work on his own. The thoughtful, at times intense but unfailingly friendly and polite Taylor has talked about opening a larger gallery for several years, examining whether to remain in the West End, follow some of his peers to London’s burgeoning art market in the East End or even move out to the outskirts of London and open a huge space in an old warehouse, where he could adequately display the large-scale works generally produced by the current generation of young artists. In the end, he decided to stick close to his old stomping grounds around Bond Street.
Taylor — who is married to Lady Helen Taylor, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Kent — calls the current art market healthy but sober. “People are very discerning about what they buy and how much it costs — and they’re quick to determine which works are of a higher quality.”
And while he declined to reveal any figures about the annual sales of his gallery or his investment in the new space, he said he hasn’t lost money since he opened his doors seven years ago and his margins are healthy. “Nowadays, you have to be very lean and transparent in the way you conduct business,” said Taylor. “That — and you have to work very hard.”