Some artists working with Simon Lee Gallery have found themselves in financial limbo along with the embattled London gallery, Artnet News has learned.
Artists claim that the gallery, which last week posted notice that it had been put into court-ordered administration, has not paid them after selling their works and they have no idea when—or if—they will be able to recoup those funds.
Those on the gallery’s payroll aren’t faring much better—the business has begun its wind down process and most of the dozen or so employees were let go earlier this week, sources told Artnet News.
Among the artists facing non-remittance is A’Driane Nieves, who alleges she was paid only for six of the twelve works she consigned with Simon Lee Gallery last year, all of which sold, in a post on Substack. The interdisciplinary artist exhibited works with the gallery at last year’s Art Basel in Basel and at Frieze London, she said. She received payment for six works that sold at Basel, but after invoicing for the remainder and working out a timeline for payment with the gallery, it stopped paying invoices in January. Nieves declined to comment further.
Several sources familiar with the situation said the gallery has been failing to pay artists for works it sold, but that some had managed to get paid after several months of chase.
The gallery’s financial meltdown did not happen overnight. Rumors that it was facing financial woes began swirling last year, and in March the gallery was set to be dissolved, according to public filings. Last month, the gallery said the March 17 petition to wind up the company was related to a tax dispute and that the matter had since been resolved.
The doors of the gallery’s Mayfair space remain shut and the lights were off as of Thursday afternoon. However, art by the late French abstract painter Olivier Debré featured in the gallery’s most recent exhibition, scheduled to run until August 4, remained on the wall.
The gallery’s Hong Kong space held its last show through January 21 this year and a phone call to its number went unanswered. The gallery’s New York branch held its last show in 2020, according to the gallery’s website.
It was not immediately clear how many artworks remain in the gallery’s storage facilities scattered around the world. The court-ordered administrator, BDO LPP, did not respond to a request for comment, nor did representatives for the gallery. A July 18 corporate insolvency notice advises creditors to send claims to BDO.
According to the 2019 financial statements of Simon Lee Gallery Limited, the gallery had a loss of £3,239,606 after tax that year against a profit of £97,393 recorded in 2018. The 2019 statements, filed to U.K.’s Companies House in May 2023, are the most recent available. Simon Lee Gallery Limited was incorporated in 2001.
However, the company is subject to a petition order to wind up from HMRC, the U.K.’s tax authority, following their determinations for its 2019, 2020, and 2021 results. Between 2014 and 2021, Companies House has sent multiple notices for compulsory strike-off to dissolve the company, but each time the strike-off action was subsequently suspended.
The company’s directors, however, believed that the company will be financially stable after filing the overdue accounts and tax returns, according to the financial statements.
Accounts for another company, Simon Lee Gallery Holdings Limited, which was incorporated in 2015 and became “a person with significant control” of Simon Lee Gallery Limited, were overdue according to Companies House’s records. It also received a Companies House notice for compulsory strike-off in January this year but it was suspended in February.