Thaddaeus Ropac only founded his first gallery in 1983, but quickly set about building a European power-house network of spaces, and has now finally opened his long-awaited new London gallery.
Specialising in international contemporary art and representing sixty artists, Thaddaeus already has several galleries in Salzburg and Paris and has now taken over the elegant Mayfair mansion Ely House. The company, which is a firm favourite at all the top art fairs world wide and has one of the best in-house publishers, has opened its new space in the 18th century mansion that until recently was home to Mallet Antiques on Dover Street. The street used to be known as the must-visit place for old master dealers, but in recent years they have been forced out due to raising rents caused by competing fashion houses and international restaurants, and in more recent years, contemporary galleries, helping the road re-bolster its art credentials.
Having enlisted the architectural designer Annabelle Selldorf, the new gallery is unrecognisable from its old existence. Everything has been stripped back and painted brilliant white, allowing the spacious rooms to speak in a modernist way, but with original fireplaces and plaster fixtures being repositioned in to the 21st century. It was certainly never how the interior was supposed to look, but for a modern art gallery it has been done with great sympathy and has yielded beautiful results in what must surely be one of the areas most expensive rentals.
For the opening, Thaddaeus Ropac has provided something of a mixed bag of treats to entice visitors. On the ground floor, there is a one-room show of early media works by British stalwarts Gilbert and George. Their presence in the first room entered signals that this new dealer has arrived firmly in the British Scene and is pulling no punches when it comes to British Art. They are also a name known for pulling in the crowds, so a wise move.
Behind this is a room of works by the multimedia artist Oliver Beer, which includes various ancient ceramics, all mic’ed up, which appear to sing through a PA system in a room filled with paintings of explosion-diagrams of various musical instruments. There is also a daily show of a performace piece by the artist, where four singers harmonise in random notations with one another while each facing a corner of the gallery’s hallway. While it may be asinine, it is a bold move for a new commercial gallery to champion perofrmasce art in such a way so should be applauded.
Upstairs there is a room filled with 20th century constructivist sculptures by the likes of Dan Flavin and Donald Judd, which highlight the quality of works Ropac deals with. The other part of the first floor has a small but wonderfully tightly curated show of sculpture and early drawings by Joseph Beuys. The show examines Beuys’ early expressions where spontaneity was key, through works that come from a loose wrist to produce tense yet delicate lines.
All together the four shows sing in harmony, in a new space that is incredibly light, airy and expertly organised. Ropac has pushed the bar for London spaces several steps up, and we doubt it will be long until others start to respond. The quality of the works they sell shine through, being matched but the quality of this new space, its curation and the accompanying books they produce. Welcome Thaddaeus Ropac, we have been waiting.
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Ely House, 37 Dover Street, London.