The Pace Gallery confirmed today that it has secured a two-floor, 9,000-square-foot space in London at the Royal Academy’s 6 Burlington Gardens building, ending years of speculation about its plans in the capital city, which is becoming an increasingly crowded art hub. Architect Sir David Chipperfield, who is handling a major renovation of the entire Academy that is set to be completed by 2018, will design the space. The new Pace branch will open in October, right before the Frieze Art Fair, with a two-person show of painter Mark Rothko and photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto.
“When we found out that the Royal Academy could become available, there was no doubt that this was the space,” Pace’s director of communications, Andrea Glimcher, told The Observer by phone today. “We did everything possible to lobby for it.” The gallery will lease the west wing of 6 Burlington Gardens. Until late last year, New York and London gallery Haunch of Venison was a tenant at 6 Burlington Gardens as its location in Haunch of Venison Yard underwent renovations.
Farran Tozer Brown, chief of staff at the Royal Academy, said that the decision to select Pace for the location was a “long and deeply considered process.” Ms. Glimcher said that Marc Glimcher, Pace’s president and her husband, gave several in-person pitches to the Academy in order to secure a space (Mr. Glimcher was unavailable for comment). She also emphasized the two bodies’ independence. “Our exhibition schedule is independent from theirs and vice versa,” she said.
Pace has had a foothold in London for some time, and opened to the public a modestly sized space on Lexington Street, in London’s Soho area, last fall. However, it was known to have been looking for a larger space in the city. At the end of 2010, it hired onetime Gagosian director Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst as London director. Ms. Dent-Brocklehurst has deep connections to many of the world’s wealthiest collectors, having also served as chief international coordinator and curator of exhibitions at Moscow’s Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, which was founded by Dasha Zhukova, the girlfriend of Russian billionaire collector Roman Abramovich, who has a home in London.
Pace’s move comes just as a number of New Yorker dealers have announced plans to build sizable galleries in London. Michael Werner Gallery and David Zwirner both recently declared their intentions to open there. They too will be in the Mayfair neighborhood, where leading contemporary galleries, like Hauser & Wirth, Stephen Friedman, and Gagosian maintain presences. Larry Gagosian, in fact, has two spaces in the city, where he has operated since 2000.
“Europeans and now Russians and people from the Middle East are coming through London,” Ms. Glimcher said. “It’s critical for us.” Indeed, in recent years, the city has become center for art commerce, located far closer to emerging markets than New York. Sotheby’s recently announced that it sells five times as many lots to collectors from “new” markets in London than in New York. “The artists we represent would like to have a presence there,” Ms. Glimcher added, “and the collectors that we already work with would like to have us there.”
Designed by James Pennethorne, 6 Burlington Gardens was completed in 1870 on the grounds of Burlington House, a 17th-century home that is located just to the south. Pennethorne’s structure housed the University of London for about three decades before having a variety of different tenants. Burlington House itself was bought by the British government in the mid-19th century. In 1867, the Royal Academy, which had been founded in 1768, moved in, on a 999-year lease. More recently, the Academy served as venue for the now-defunct Zoo contemporary art fair, a satellite event of London’s annual Frieze Fair.
Exhibitions at the new Pace London kick off on Oct. 4 with “Rothko/Sugimoto: Dark Paintings and Seascapes,” which will pair some of the former’s late work with the latter’s iconic photographs of the sea meeting the horizon. “Rothko hasn’t been in a gallery show since 1963 [in London],” Ms. Glimcher said. “We just started doing that research a while back, and some of the things we learned were stunning.”
In addition to its London space, Pace currently maintains a gallery in Beijing and three in New York; a fourth New York gallery is under construction beneath the High Line on West 25th Street.