Are there still spaces in the crowded urban area of central London for development of art galleries, unless part of a major redevelopment such as Phillips in Berkeley Square or Hauser and Wirth in Savile Row. While it seems highly unlikely, the White Cube found the site of an old electricity sub-station in Mason’s Yard, St James, for its new gallery which, in 2006, was the first free-standing building to be built in the St James’s area for more than 30 years, and now the Gagosian has opened its new gallery in Grosvenor Hill, Mayfair, designed by Caruso St John and, although it is connected to an adjacent 1960’s block, it has its own identity and massing which makes it appear like a freestanding building. A decade after Caruso St John designed the Gagosian Gallery at King’s Cross where the display spaces are white enclosed boxes with no daylight, gallery design has moved on and the new building is more transparent and connected to the street outside through large windows that allow views in and out and to new pedestrian-friendly landscaping.
The building is in fact a collaboration between two architects, Caruso St John who have designed several previous galleries for Gagosian, and TateHindle who were responsible for the structure and shell for the landlords, the Grosvenor Estate. The collaboration has worked well with TateHindle’s clean grey brick exterior complimenting the gallery inside. The old column-free “White-Cube” aesthetic has now moved on with the the new generation of gallery spaces having more character and, in this case, the architects have created a series of well-proportioned grand rooms, a modern interpretation of former Mayfair mansions, united by a rich dark oak block floor. Unlike Caruso St John’s gallery for Damien Hirst, which also opened this month, there was no existing history to play with and no opportunity for geometric staircases.
The architects have also introduced a new concept for gallery lighting. Rather than the relentless white lights which characterise many galleries, the emphasis is on daylight with LED lighting controlled by sensors to replicate the daylight levels outside, even to the extent of dimming when clouds pass by.
Gagosian has had a long relationship with Cy Twombly (1928–2011) whose work has inaugurated several Gagosian galleries around the world and this exhibition is a celebration of the strong partnership between gallery and artist. The large windows mean that the pedestrians outside have glimpses into the paintings and sculpture in the exhibition.
Larry Gagosian commented “It was a tremendous honor that Cy Twombly inaugurated so many of our European galleries with exhibitions of new work. In keeping with this tradition, we are excited to be able to show several previously unseen works as the opening exhibition at the Grosvenor Hill gallery.”