CapitaLand in alleged lease dispute with UK art gallery

SINGAPORE (Jan 4): Franses Gallery, a London-based UK art gallery, says it is currently in the midst of a “bitter [court] dispute” with CapitaLand over a new 15-year lease of purpose-built premises within the Singapore-listed property developer’s Ascott-branded Cavendish Hotel.

Cavendish Hotel is situated in the St James Art District in London, UK.  

In a press release issued on Thursday morning, Franses accused CapitaLand of attempting to evict the business from Cavendish Hotel to “make way” for the development of two retail fashion outlets.

“Despite the gallery’s 25 years of tenancy, CapitaLand has made no offer to rehouse or relocate the institution,” says Franses.   

According to the gallery, CapitaLand’s serviced residences arm Ascott was forced to withdraw its planning application for the development after being met by a “barrage of protests from neighbours, curators, collectors and other galleries”.

Additionally, the gallery claims that its “lawful use of the premises for its current purposes” was confirmed by a deputy leader of Westminster City Council, Cllr Robert Davis, on Dec 6 last year, when representations made by the Cavendish Hotel were “dismissed”.

“[CapitaLand seems] unaware that this is the heart of the St James’s Art District, the world’s greatest concentration of art expertise. It always seemed irrational to try to replace us with fashion outlets, which are against the council’s stated policy,” says the gallery’s director, Simon Franses, who likens the court battle with CapitaLand to a “David versus Goliath fight”.

“Any replacement would now be limited to art, antique or bespoke, and would pay an equivalent rent to us,” he adds.

The case, which the gallery says “will attract attention across the art world”, is slated to be heard on Jan 16 in London’s Royal Courts of Justice.

Shares of CapitaLand closed flat at S$3.03 on Tuesday. —

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