Shuttered Simon Lee Gallery Owes $12.6 Million to Creditors, Insolvency Report Says

Artists, galleries, art fair operators, shippers, and more are allegedly awaiting payments.

The facade of Simon Lee Gallery in London. Courtesy of Simon Lee.

Simon Lee Gallery in London, which was put into court-ordered administration in the U.K. last year, owes an estimated £10 million (about $12.6 million) to 153 creditors, including artists and other galleries, according to documents filed by its joint administrators.

Details of the gallery’s financial situation are revealed in a 44-page report that was filed on September 5, 2023, by BDO LLP, the business advisory firm appointed to administer the firm amid its insolvency last July. The filing was first reported by The Art Newspaper.

The report, which was reviewed by Artnet News, says that the gallery owes more than a million dollars to artists, including the Philadelphia-based A’Driane Nieves, who is waiting for £73,466 (some $92,000). Last year, Nieves alleged that the gallery sold a dozen works of her works but paid her for only half of those sales.

The gallery’s largest debt to an artist, according to the report, is the £631,300 ($797,000) it owes the Glasgow-based painter France-Lise McGurn. Meanwhile, the New York-based Garth Weiser is owed £210,998 ($266,500), Los Angeles’s Jim Shaw £254,315.83 ($321,200), Swiss artist Mai-Thu Perret £78,648 ($99,300), and Berlin-based Angela Bulloch £145,346 ($183,600).

Florian Pfahler, the founder of Chicago sandwich maker Hannah’s Bretzel, is also owed £153,202, or $193,500. That is believed to be related to the estate of German painter Georg Karl Pfahler, whose Color Field paintings have been exhibited at Simon Lee Gallery across various locations and art fairs. Artnet News has asked Pfahler for comment.

Jim Shaw, One Percent For Art (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Simon Lee Gallery.

Jim Shaw, One Percent For Art (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Simon Lee Gallery.

Well-known galleries are among the long list of creditors, as well. Those with the biggest claims include Seoul’s PKM Gallery (£209,351, or $264,400), São Paulo-based Mendes Wood DM (£23,551, or $29,700), the Artist Room in London (£15,480, $19,600), and New York print specialists Two Palms (£201,943, or $255,000).

There is also a claim of £295,278 ($372,900) from Simcor, an entity owned by the Los Angeles-based art dealer Stefan Simchowitz, over works by Ghanaian artist Serge Attukwei Clottey that were sold by Simon Lee Gallery on consignment. Artnet News has reached out to the galleries and dealers for comments.

Mega-gallery Hauser & Wirth is also listed as a creditor with a claim of more than £3.5 million ($4.42 million), but the gallery told The Art Newspaper that it was an error. Artnet News has reached out to the gallery for comment.

Simon Lee Gallery also owes hundreds of thousands dollars to other art businesses, including art fair operators MCH Group (the parent company of Art Basel), Frieze, London Gallery Weekend, Phillips auction house, and Artforum, as well as providers of art shipping and logistics services. (Full disclosure:: Artnet is also a creditor, with a claim of £1,271, or $1,600.)

Founded in November 2001, by its namesake, Simon Lee Gallery once operated spaces in London, New York, and Hong Kong. It recorded a consistent net profit between one to three percent of its turnover, which reached £51.5 million ($65 million) in 2018. However, the annual turnover plunged to £22.4 million in 2019, resulting in a £3.2 million ($4.04 million) loss.

The Covid pandemic made business worse, and though the gallery sought a £1 million Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan from Barclays Bank, that did not salvage its books. The gallery failed to file its accounts and tax return after 2019, prompting U.K.’s tax authority, HMRC, to petition to wind up the gallery’s business several times. The gallery subsequently closed its New York and Hong Kong spaces. Last year, the gallery was put into court-ordered administration, and all 15 employees were made redundant.

Among the biggest creditors is Barclays, the gallery’s primary bank, which is owed £736,749 ($930,300). It is a secured creditor, so it is positioned to be repaid in full. BDO charged a fee of £570,000 ($718,000) up to September 4 last year for its services.

Simon Lee Gallery also says that it is owed money. It is allegedly waiting on £7.97 million ($10.1 million) for two works that it sold but that have not been paid for, all well as £393,000 ($496,200) for the sale of work jointly owned by the gallery and a U.S. gallery three years ago.

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