The former Sotheby’s director became an art dealer in 1981 when he set up Harari & Johns with Philip Harari to specialise in European 12th-18th century art.
The pair moved to Duke Street in central London in 1985 and when Harari retired, Johns established his own gallery in 1996.
Now his new home is on the top floor of the Georgian House at 10 Bury Street, just around the corner in St James’s.
But it was not his choice to move.
The building at 12-13 Duke Street was purchased by fellow dealer Fabrizio Moretti. When the leases of the galleries in the building came to an end there was not an option to renew. It is thought Moretti plans to move into the building for his own gallery, but Moretti could not comment on the details when contacted by ATG.
Johns, alongside Johnny Van Haeften, Tomasso Brothers and Cartier dealer Harry Fane have all had to leave. Particularly galling for Johns is the fact he owned the freehold of 12 Duke Street previously.
Harari and he had purchased it in 1985 but were forced to sell when Harari retired as it was tied up in the company pension fund.
Johns, 70, said he didn’t want to retire, adding: “Dealers don’t retire. I can’t give it up.”
But he admits trade is tough for Old Master dealers currently. He said: “The buyers are now not collectors but are either investors or decorators. You don’t get the cognoscenti. Yes, of course you get troughs, but the past two years have been very tough.”
Despite the difficulties, Johns has not lost his wry sense of humour. His new gallery window overlooks auctioneer Christie’s and he says he could place a bid from his office.
“We will be happy here. As long as we don’t bite the porter or sing we will be OK”, he added, referring to a strange set of clauses in the agreement to rent space in Georgian House.