Mayfair’s galleries can feel intimating, even to the seasoned art collector. But now the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) is hoping to shake the London area’s stuffy image through a new partnership with more than 60 galleries and auction houses as part of the rebranded Mayfair Art Weekend.
“Our aim is to open up our schools, the collection and our buildings and make them all more accessible to the public,” says Kate Goodwin, the RA’s curator of architecture who is on the board of Mayfair Art Weekend. “We want to break down some of the perceived barriers around the art world in Mayfair.”
Formerly Brown’s London Art Weekend, the new event (30 June-2 July) will see local galleries including David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth, Lévy Gorvy, Victoria Miro and Sadie Coles join forces for three days of special events.
The event is not only focused on the blue-chip, however. The RA is also hosting a free arts festival in its courtyard and across Burlington House, which will include temporary works of art by emerging artists. “We are looking for the next generation who are not yet represented by the nearby blue-chip galleries,” Godwin says. The festival will coincide with the RA Schools Show, the annual show of works by final-year students, and the 249th Summer Exhibition, the world’s largest open submission exhibition.
The RA’s partnership comes at a time of great change in Mayfair. Several Old Master dealers including Johnny Van Haeften and Agnew’s have recently left the area, while Colnaghi merged with the Spanish Old Masters dealers Jorge Coll and Nicolás Cortés and moved from Old Bond Street to St James’s.
New blood is also trickling into Mayfair in the shape of contemporary art dealers. They include Thaddaeus Ropac, who opens his first London outpost on Dover Street in April, and Almine Rech, who opened on Grosvenor Hill last autumn opposite Larry Gagosian’s new flagship space. All three galleries are taking part in Mayfair Art Weekend.
Godwin says the building works that are currently transforming Burlington Gardens, which are due to be finished in time for the RA’s 250th anniversary in 2018, have also paved the way for greater interaction with the local art scene. “For 150 years our address has been on Piccadilly,” she says. “But now we have this new entrance to the north, which leads onto a community of art galleries. It is an opportunity to become an integral part of that.”