The arrival of the Phillips auction house at 30 Berkeley Square confirms Mayfair's emergence as the art market's prime pitch. And with Caruso St John currently working up plans for Larry Gagosian's mammoth new gallery round the corner on Grosvenor Hill, Mayfair's top spot looks beyond dispute.
The auction house's new European HQ, with a double-height shopfront facing onto Mount Street and Berkeley Square itself, is also an acknowledgment that art and collectible design are now as much luxury goodies as the Céline robes or Balenciaga bags available across the road. Opening the new showroom last week, Ed Dolman – appointed Phillips' chairman and chief executive in July, after three years at the Qatar Museums Authority and 27 at Christie's before that – called it part of the 'contemporary luxury landscape'.
Bankrolled by Mercury, the Russian luxury-goods group, Phillips has decamped from its base at Howick Place in Victoria – an area that, ironically, now boasts a cluster of fashion-brand HQs but is perhaps off the map as far as international art collectors are concerned. The new Berkeley Square space is a suitably luxurious 31,000 square feet.
This new base of operations, designed by architects Aukett Swanke, has vaulted exhibition spaces on the ground floor and lower ground floor with further exhibition space on the first and sixth floors (which also features a café and terraces).
Phillips has drafted in Italian curator Francesco Bonami to ensure the showroom opens in spectacular fashion and make clear what is possible in the voluminous new space. His exhibition, 'A Very Short History of Contmporary Sculpture', includes 33 works by Carl Andre, Donald Judd, Jeff Koons, Rachel Whiteread, Richard Prince, Matthew Barney, Sol LeWitt and Anthony Caro, among others – all given space to shine and catch the eye of passers-by. Only two of the works, however, are for sale, further 'blurring the boundaries between gallery, auction house and museum', as Bonami says.
The gallery on the lower ground floor has been given over to a preview of the inaugural evening sale on 15 October, with works by Kippenberger, Kiefer, Kapoor, Richter, Koons and Warhol – as well as from younger artists on the rise, including Tauba Auerbach, Sterling Ruby and Wyatt Kahn. The sixth-floor gallery is previewing the 16 October day sale, while Phillips' worldwide design director Alex Payne is building buzz around his December design sale in New York by sneaking five Carlo Mollino pieces into the lobby. Payne is also looking forward to making the most of Phillips' new London home with plans to install a Prouvé prefab on the ground floor before April's design sale.