Cork Street Gallery District To Be Demolished By Developers

We reported back in June 2011 that rent rises and retail gentrification could displace the art galleries in London’s Cork Street. It now it looks like the developers have taken hold on both sides of the famous gallery district’s road. Cork Street in Mayfair, is about to suffer the nail in the coffin that has plagued much of the area, including Dover Street, Old Bond Street and Savile Row. Look out! An identikit retail and luxury flat development is coming full stream ahead. Standard Life owners of a large chunk of the road have announced that they have a buyer for their Cork Street  property. They have now agreed a £90m deal to redevelop the building as luxury apartments. The building will be designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners, the same architects used by the Candy brothers’ at One Hyde Park. This will scatter up to 20 art galleries including The Mayor Gallery which was the first gallery on Cork Street, in 1925.

The proposals come six weeks after seven galleries on the opposite side of the street were given notice to leave as early as next year. Their landlord, the Pollen Estate includes numbers five to nine on Cork Street, home to four of the street’s best known galleries, including Bernard Jacobson, Hay Hill,Messum’s and Petleys. If approved at council planning, the work could be finished sometime in 2016.

This huge development would destroy almost 90 years of history and scatter 22 galleries. Cork Street is renowned throughout the world as an art collectors paradise and clients come from around the world to come and see, and buy art there. Students come from around the UK to study there and its location to the Royal Academy make it a convenient and very central place for them to do so.
Destroying the street to make room for Bond Street fashion retailers and hedgefunder’s flats would destroy what has become one of London’s cultural heritages. Bond Street fashion can stay on Bond Street. Savile Row is famous for tailors, Cork Street is famous for Art. It has become a London landmark and we should leave it this way.

Cork Street was traditionally known as the home of the finest contemporary art galleries in Britain. It is located to the north of Burlington House which houses the Royal Academy, a leading British art institution. Immediately to the east and running parallel to Cork Street are Dover and Old Bond Street known as the traditional heartland of the British gallery establishment.

Cork Street is part of the Burlington Estates developed from the 18th century. The first Earl of Burlington, Richard Boyle second Earl of Cork (1612–1698), hence the name, after the city of Cork n south western Ireland. The street in particular and the area in general was associated with tailors. For example, Beau Brummell  (1778–1840), who introduced the flamboyant form of gentleman’s fashion in Regency London that became known as dandyism , patronised tailors in Cork Street and its surrounding area. Savile Row, not far from Cork Street to the east, is now the street most associated with high-quality gentleman’s tailors today. In the 20th century, the street became associated with the art world, partly due to its proximity with the Royal Academy to the south. Many British-based artists have exhibited in Cork Street over the years.

Gallery owner Bernard Jacobson told the Guardian: “They showed us these gorgeous plans and then said, ‘By the way goodbye and thanks for being a good tenant’.”I’ve been forced out. They’ll probably triple the rent. They say they want to keep it as an art street but this is just about money to them.”I’m sure [the disruption from the building work] will be awful for the remaining galleries. Cork Street has been killed off by the greed of the landlords”.

Please sign up and help petition against yet more corporate greed that will turn this cultural hub into yet another faceless and bland part of the city and help Cork Street maintain its position on the Art world map. Threatening to raise rents will also drive the galleries out. We ask for a substantial lease on these properties so that we can stay here for years to come. As a regular visitor to Cork Street, I am amazed at the apparent disregard for the historical value, public appreciation, art lovers, artists and all those people who have heard of the reputation of this internationally renowned and valued street, so close to the Royal Academy. The diversity and quality of art in these galleries seems to count for nothing. I am appalled at the idea of developing this area – just for once, let things stay as they are! Cork Street is part of our cultural heritage – it offers an oasis of individual galleries that show great art that enhance our lives. It attracts clients from all around the world and losing galleries would be a great loss not only to  Cork Street itself, but also the surrounding retailers who benefit hugely from Cork Street visitors.

A petition against both projects, has so far garnered more than 8,700 signatories, will be submitted to Westminster council over the next few weeks.


Join Save Cork Street   

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