So Austrian gallerist Thaddaeus Ropac’s new London location, which he opened in April and is set in the grand 18th-century surroundings of Dover Street, may come as a surprise.
The building is the former Bishop of Ely’s home – a historic five-floor mansion that was also home of the Albemarle Club in the late 1800s, frequented by the likes of Oscar Wilde and most recently the home of venerable antique furniture dealer Mallett.
Ropac had been searching for a London space – a fourth gallery following two in Paris and one in Salzburg – for the past three years. When he found 37 Dover Street he couldn’t believe his good fortune, finding a spot in this “quintessential art town”. He says: “To come from the continent and find this building, I was very lucky.”
Mayfair was his “personal choice” because he knew and loved the area.
“It had to be Mayfair and it had to have high ceilings,” he adds. Finding the location may have been lucky, but the timing was not. Around the time of signing the deal, Britain was voting for Brexit.
“I am very upset Britain is leaving the common market, making things more complicated. But it will not take away from the fact London is at the centre of the art world, alongside Paris and New York.”
Ropac has chosen exhibitions that pay homage to the historic surroundings.
Artist Oliver Beer’s Devils, one of the first shows, is an acoustic installation of ancient, antique and modern pots. Much in the same way that a sound can be created from running a finger along the top of a wine glass, with the use of a feedback loop, Beer reveals the vessels’ “inherent musical notes”.
“Tastes are changing,” Ropac says. “Even in Austria, which is very conservative, they are collecting contemporary art. But great art, of course, will never be lost. It is about quality.”