BY Chris Waywell in Frieze London | 08 SEP 23

We Go Way Back: Thomas Dane Gallery

In this new series, galleries and gallerists who have been part of Frieze London since day one in 2003 talk about London, the art world and their approach to showing work

BY Chris Waywell in Frieze London | 08 SEP 23

Although Thomas Dane Gallery didn’t physically open until April 2004, Thomas Dane and Karsten Schubert had taken part in the first Frieze London the previous year as Ridinghouse. The new gallery’s first show was an exhibition by Steve McQueen, followed in October of the same year with Paul Pfeiffer’s first solo show in the UK. Thomas Dane gallery has since hosted the first UK solo exhibitions of Terry Adkins, Lynda Benglis, Walead Beshty, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Jose Damasceno, Michel Francois, Arturo Herrera, Luisa Lambri, Glenn Ligon, Jean-Luc Moulene, Albert Oehlen, Jorge Queiroz and Kelley Walker, in addition to a strong group of British artists, including Cecily Brown, Anya Gallaccio and Anthea Hamilton.

François Chantala, partner at Thomas Dane Gallery, discusses its journey, approach to artists and 20-year relationship with Frieze London

Could you outline the history of Thomas Dane Gallery in London?

François Chantala: The story of the gallery is a little atypical. Thomas held a unique position in the art world when I started working with him almost 25 years ago. He was already very active with artists, gallerists and collectors but sans space. It was an exciting, pivotal situation, especially in the London of that time. Opening a gallery space felt like a natural progression, something that needed to happen. And it did, quite serendipitously, in 2004. Then, in 2011 we opened a second space in Duke Street St. James’s, and seven years later another gallery in Chiaia, in Naples.

Lynda Benglis. Photograph: Ben Westoby
Installation view, ‘Lynda Benglis’, Thomas Dane Gallery, London, 3 March–29 April 2023. © Lynda Benglis. Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Courtesy the artist, Pace Gallery and Thomas Dane Gallery. Photo: Ben Westoby

What do you feel is the most important aspect of your approach to the artists you show?

It was an artist – Steve McQueen – who really inspired Thomas and gave him a slight push to open a gallery, so in many ways the artists have been and remain at the core of everything the gallery does. It is something that you hear often but never want to become a cliché: ‘an artist-led gallery’... but that is really what we strive to be and pride ourselves on, almost at all costs.

Who have been some of the formative artists for the gallery?

Steve McQueen, of course; opening the gallery with a show of his films set the tone for the years to come. Moving image seems to have been slowly abandoned by an all-too-conservative art world but it needs a platform more than ever. Michael Landy and Anya Gallaccio were also with us from the start, having showed initially with the late Karsten Schubert, a close friend of Thomas’s. Albert Oehlen, Hurvin Anderson, Cecily Brown... all of whom push the medium of painting with a passion. Not forgetting the first exhibition of Lynda Benglis in London! It is hard to single out just a few; there have been so many formative shows.

‘Like its people, the London art landscape never gets stale or formulaic’ – François Chantala


Can you describe London’s art landscape?  

It never ceases to amaze me. It is so mature and yet knows how to remain irreverent, and it finds impulse and energy in adversity. From the north to south and east to west of the city, institutions and galleries are unparalleled in their diversity and vitality. Younger galleries rub shoulders with established dealers, and the balance and relationships between the public and private is second to none in the world. So many artists choose to live here. New generations of artists and dealers continue to blossom... Like its people, the London art landscape never gets stale or formulaic.

Hurvin Anderson
Installation view, Hurvin Anderson, ‘Reverb’, Thomas Dane Gallery, London, 12 October–4 December 2021. © Hurvin Anderson. Courtesy the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery. Photo: Ben Westoby

What impact has Frieze art fair had on Thomas Dane Gallery and on London’s art scene in a wider sense?

The impact of Frieze has been huge. London never had a proper art week before the fair set its tent in The Regent’s Park. We all put on our best shows for the occasion and it is unmissable. Frieze has also been good at transforming and adapting – it grew and multiplied and never lost its impetus for risk-taking and the unconventional, which kept enticing visitors from around the world. For us, it is where we became more proficient and perhaps more confident with the particularities and specificities of the Art Fair theatre. It is on our home turf which allowed us to be more adventurous.

Which moments from Frieze especially stand out for you or were significant for you?

Because Frieze is so much more of an experimental playground than other fairs, it enables and even encourages galleries to push the boundaries a bit. There have been some amazing projects by the likes of the Wrong Gallery, for example. The fair always feels very participatory, and the audience and artists seem to engage like nowhere else. This is why we felt compelled to show Michael Landy’s Credit Card Destroying Machine in 2011, a huge Tinguely-esque kinetic sculpture that destroyed credit cards while creating drawings, or Steve McQueen’s time-stopping film Charlotte in a black box a few years before that. And more recently the extraordinary stand that Anthea Hamilton designed and curated in 2022. Even the more difficult years for the art market hold a special place. It is at Frieze that, thanks to the Outset Fund, we placed works by Hurvin Anderson and Caragh Thuring in the Tate collections and these are the best achievements of all.

Michael Landy, Credit Card Destroying Machine, Frieze Lodnon, 2010
Michael Landy, Credit Card Destroying Machine, 2010, as part of Thomas Dane Gallery at Frieze London, 13–16 October 2011. © Michael Landy. Courtesy the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery.

What art trends or young artists are you finding exciting right now?

I think we are beyond trends, to be honest. Age, nationality, background... we have never lived in a more open time in which boundaries and information are so fluid and are shape-shifting so fast. It is unfortunately also the era of extreme instant gratification. As a gallerist, I would not necessarily want to name names, but rather keep reiterating that we need to live and look in the Now, in the Real, and give the artists time.

What does the future hold for Thomas Dane Gallery?

Like Frieze, we are about to be 20 years old, in April 2024. Another 20? I hope the future can be as bright and enriching as the last 20 years have been. The gallery cannot really stand still and we just want to keep putting on the best and most memorable exhibitions. We keep learning, all the time. And we are very lucky to be part of an art world that I hope remains diverse, exciting and open to the new.

Thomas Dane Gallery, 3 & 11 Duke Street St James’s, London, SW1Y 6BN. 

Read more…

We Go Way Back: White Cube


Thomas Dane Gallery is part of Frieze London, which returns to The Regent’s Park from 11–15 October, 2023. Read the full list of galleries and curators taking part in Frieze London &Frieze Masters 2023.


Early-bird tickets to the fairs are now sold out. Limited full-price tickets have just been released. Don’t miss out, book yours now.



To keep up to date on all the latest news from Frieze, sign up to the newsletter at, and follow @friezeofficial on Instagram, Twitter and Frieze Official on Facebook. 

Main image: Thomas Dane Gallery, Duke Street St James’s, London. Photo © Thomas Dane Gallery

Chris Waywell is Senior Editor of Frieze Studios. He lives in London, UK.