Once one of London’s most elegant streets, with Georgian townhouses on either side, Dover Street in Mayfair was developed in the late 17th and 18th centuries by a syndicate headed by Sir Thomas Bond (after whom Bond Street is named) on land formerly occupied by Clarendon House. At that time the properties backed on to open fields as the development of Mayfair was progressing. Notable occupants included the architect John Nash. the composer Frederick Chopin, while Brown’s Hotel, which was established in 1837, is famous for the place from where Alexander Graham Bell made the first transatlantic phone call in 1876 and where Agatha Christie based her book Bertram’s Hotel. Indeed, for many years Green Street Station was named Dover Street station until redevelopment closed off the entrance onto Dover Street. Dover Street is also home to the Arts Club and the fictional location of P.G.Woodhouse’s Drones Club, a frequent haunt of Bertie Wooster.
Many of the Georgian houses remain, one of the most impressive at No 37, adding to the growing number of art galleries when, in spring 2017, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac opened its new London gallery here following refurbishment by architect Annabelle Selldorf. Built as Ely House between 1772 and 1776 for the Bishop of Ely by architect Robert Taylor (1714-1788), it was described as “one of the best houses in London” by Country Life in 2002. At one time, it was the home of the Albermarle Club and now Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac occupies the whole building, with elegant galleries on the ground and first floor, spanning across to Berkeley Street and enabling a number of different exhibitions and artists to be shown at one time.
The third series of exhibitions since opening focusses on three generations of artists spanning 130 years from the 1880’s to the present, focused primarily on Merdardo Rosso (1858-1928), Arnulf Rainer (born 1929) and Lee Bul (born 1964) with additional works by contemporary artists including Antony Gormley and Tony Cragg, the latter reflecting Cragg’s admiration for Rosso.
The ground floor corridor and gallery overlooking Berkeley Street are hung with Viennese artist Arnulf Rainer’s Red and Black Overpaintings and Proportion Studies from the 1950’s and 60’s, while on the first floor Korean artist Lee Bul’s futuristic sculptures are inspired by the imaginary designs published in 1917 by German architect Bruno Taut for utopian cities in the Alps to be constructed from metal and crystal, and are on show here in advance of her exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in spring 2018.
Challenging in terms of the rigorous environmental criteria for conservation are the sensitive works by Medardo Rosso, much admired in his day, including by Rodin, but who was forgotten after his death. By happy coincidence, Rosso’s largest London exhibition took place a century ago a few doors away from Ely House. Many of the works are made of wax over a plaster support, on show in one of the historic Georgian rooms without protective cases in an exhibition design by Annabelle Selldorf supported by AECOM on the environmental conditioning. The current display also incorporates informal plinths designed by Rosso’s son for the sculptures in the Museo Marardo Rosso in Barzio, giving the exhibition the informality of the artist’s studio, alongside photographs and drawings which focus on Rosso’s visits to London.
Three very different and fascinating exhibitions in this beautiful Georgian townhouse.