UPDATE: The death of Cork Street; art and culture succumb to big foreign money
On 6 August 2013 Westminster council approved the Native Land development. Chairman of the committee Alastair Moss led the committee and, in our opinion, made many factual errors in his representations. The end result is the loss of the 7 galleries that are currently on Cork Street in the building to be demolished in January 2014. These galleries include some of the most important galleries including the longest running gallery, the Mayor Gallery. Some of these galleries have expressed that they will permanently close because the costs of relocating in Mayfair would be prohibitive.
The committee approved the replacement space for 3 proposed galleries, fronting Cork Street, a net loss of 4 galleries. The new development is to be made up of units much larger and predominantly glass walled, not lending itself to a gallery format - an opinion expressed by many galleries to Westminster Planning. Chairman Moss did not listen to the galleries’ comments that the proposed spaces were not suitable for galleries, as the design meant the loss of hanging space and the increase of ceiling heights, the size and layout that were not appropriate for the type of Cork Street galleries but rather a luxury brand shop. In addition, the developers have expressed that the rent will significantly increase (commensurate to Bond Street rates) which will impede the return of the small independent galleries.
Obviously, the committee did not understand what Cork Street galleries are all about. For nearly 100 years Cork Street has been recognized as one of the most important, if not the most important street in the world for art. It has launched more careers in the art world than any other street - names such as Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Sir Peter Blake, Lynn Chadwick, David Hockney, and the list goes on and on. The small independent dealers meant diversity and are able to take risk, presenting emerging artists. Larger galleries, with the costs of Mayfair, mean that they will be dealing with only the branded names in the art world and not championing the emerging artists. This was pointed out by the Dean of the Chelsea College of Art and Design, among others, on our comment page. Art work that can be seen in the museums is not what Cork Street is about. This is a sad and scandalous legacy that is left by Chairman Alastair Moss and his panel made up of Christabel Flight, Louise Hyams, Robert Rigby, Susie Burbridge and David Boothroyd.
Even worse is the fact that we believe that the developer Native Land is not sincere in their stating that they wish to keep the street focused on art. They resisted the use of spaces as galleries until it was evident that their development approval would depend upon it. The fact that the new spaces will be under a 106 planning obligation allows that if the developer does not find a gallery to take these larger spaces then they can apply for a variation to put in something different , which will mean the extension of Bond Street shops - which is what the developer wanted from the beginning. An SPA (special protected area) will soon be coming into effect, however, it will not be in time to be able to save the existing galleries. One of the committee members at the planning hearing remarked that it is regrettable that the SPA was not now in effect. It would seem if Westminster were desirous of an SPA then they should have helped push it forward long ago.
The net effect of this decision, combined with Chairman Moss’s committee’s previous approval earlier this year, of the Pollen Estates development, in our view will be the demise of Cork Street as a beacon and capital of the world of art. The mere fact of the disruption for 2-3 years with the new construction of more than a third of the street, combined with the Pollen Estate’s project, will cause the demise of many of the remaining galleries. This could have been prevented by a reconstruction of the existing building keeping the galleries in place. The fact that the developer will potentially be able to get a variation to put in other than art galleries (as evidenced from the design) will mean that galleries in Mayfair will be a thing of the past. The fact that the development is also being allowed to replace all of the office space lost with expensive apartments will mean that this once charming haven for culture will be less vibrant. It will be sold to uber rich foreign investors who will perhaps visit their apartments once or twice a year but culturally will be a far cry from the former glory of this charming enclave that attracted people for all corners of the world. It seems that Westminster has not learned from the mistakes of Paris and other cities.
Westminster’s press office has stated that they are pleased they have saved Cork Street by agreement with the developer. This assumes of course, that the developer will actually replace the galleries. Unfortunately they have not understood the true nature of what a Cork Street gallery is all about. The already agreed loss of 4 gallery spaces fronting Cork Street with the possibility of making the future spaces something other than art galleries is scandalous and disgraceful. Not since the lady Shirley Porter scandal in Westminster has there been such disgraceful behavior.
While it may be too late to save the heritage and nature of Cork Street we would encourage people to write to Westminster Council with their thoughts. Councillor Alastair Moss can be contacted at email@example.com.
URGENT! SAVE CORK STREET!
Cork Street, the iconic international art street, is in danger of being demolished and turned into luxury apartments, offices and retail spaces. The objective of this petition is to oppose the developer's planning application, and to preserve Cork Street as an area of artistic and cultural importance. We've reached the number required for our first meeting with Westminster City Council. However the more signatures we acheive for this petition, the easier it will be to prove we that have the public's support.
For almost 90 years, Cork Street in Mayfair has been one of the most famous streets for art galleries in London, and possibly the world. Cork Street is known and loved not only in Britain but internationally, and provides a major draw to London and the UK throughout the course of a year. The history and atmosphere of this street, as well as its close proximity to the Royal Academy of Arts, make this a unique place to visit for collectors, art enthusiasts, students and tourists alike.
The careers of many prominent British artists - Barbara Hepworth, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, and Lynn Chadwick, to name a few - have been closely related to Cork Street.
A large part of Cork Street, the internationally renowned art district, is in danger of being demolished and turned into luxury apartments and non-art retail spaces. 20 independent art dealers operate out of Cork Street and the recent proposed property developments, by The Pollen Estate and Native Land, threaten to force out over half of these historic local art businesses.
In August 2012 seven galleries on Cork Street (Adam Gallery, Alpha Gallery, Beaux Arts, Mayor Gallery, Stoppenbach & Delestre, Waterhouse & Dodd and Gallery 27), were given notice to leave their premises in June 2013. Their landlord, the British insurance firm Standard Life Investments, has now finalised a £90m deal with property developer Native Land. This could result in the demolition of 22 to 27 Cork Street - part of a 7,700sq m (83,000sq ft) redevelopment of a site that stretches right through to Old Burlington Street. Their planning application is expected within the next few months.
The Pollen Estate has submitted plans to redevelop numbers 5-9, on the opposite side of Cork Street, home to another four of Cork Street’s long standing art galleries, which if approved would start in 2015.
These two separate and consecutive developments would seriously damage the livelihoods of not only the galleries forced to relocate from Cork Street but also those remaining during the four years of major construction on and around Cork Street. This would inevitably result in this most British of institutions being lost forever.
The effect of this closure will be far reaching, not only for the galleries but also their stakeholders and indeed the artists. Businesses such as shippers, framers, catalogue producers and other local service providers will be severely damaged as well. Mayfair’s rising rents and astronomical premium rates, guarantee that there will never be such a prominent and focussed street dedicated to the promotion of artistic and creative talent of all periods in this area again. Please object to this potential threat by signing the “Save Cork Street” petition and help save part of London’s cultural heritage!
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