Meet Thomas Dane, London’s most discreet gallerist

Dane believes in the long game, establishing relationships with dedicated philanthropic collectors and museums. In 2010, he was part of a team that set up the Moving Image Fund, to raise money to help institutions collect film. Its first acquisition was Isaac Julien’s Ten Thousand Waves (2010) which went into the joint ownership of two regional British museums.

‘Part of the art market now is all about speed, and about making fast judgements online,’ he says. ‘But we don’t deal in that sort of volume.’ Instead, he puts in the time and the legwork – and does not hesitate to take risks. ‘We took a Susan Rothenberg painting from the 1990s to Art Basel in Hong Kong,’ he says by way of an example. ‘It’s a really strong painting but it would never have sold by JPEG. Now, it’s gone into a significant private collection of Chinese and Western art. The business I’m in is both instinctive and experiential.’

‘The collector numbers in London haven’t necessarily grown,’ he continues, reflecting on the post-Brexit status of the British capital’s art scene. ‘But London galleries are still very reliant on its centrality as a city – as well as on working abroad. You need to be interested in territories that are developing, like Hong Kong.’ He mentions how much more complicated it is to take a show to Naples now, and how it often involves a substantial deposit that will be refunded after the work’s return. ‘But we did that with a huge Cecily Brown painting called The Triumph of Death (2022),’ he recalls. It had been temporarily installed in Blenheim Palace in late 2020 and seen by few. Dane pulled a few strings and got it into the Capodimonte Museum, a spectacular Bourbon palazzo in Naples where it hung among Titians. It now belongs to a serious collector in Asia and Dane is most likely – and very quietly – very pleased indeed.

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