A recent report prepared by the insolvency practitioners managing the administration of Simon Lee Gallery (SLG) has shed light on the gallery’s debt and raised questions about its past activities. The 44-page report, issued on 5 September 2023 by BDO LLP and obtained by The Art Newspaper, reveals that SLG, a long-profitable dealer, owes approximately £10m to 153 creditors.
According to the report, SLG enjoyed consistent net profits of between 1% and 3% of annual turnover for 17 years since its founding in November 2001. However, in 2019, the gallery’s turnover dropped from £51.5m to £22.4m, resulting in a net loss of £3.2m. The global Covid-19 pandemic further impacted SLG’s trading, leading the gallery to seek a £1m Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan from Barclays bank.
SLG failed to file its accounts and tax returns after the 2019 year-end, leading to two winding-up petitions from HMRC in February 2020 and July 2022. Both petitions were dismissed after settlement agreements were reached. However, in February 2023, HMRC issued a third winding-up petition for £1.4m of assessed tax, causing Barclays to freeze SLG’s accounts. Despite this, SLG continued trading through its Hong Kong branch using an account with Standard Chartered Bank. A third settlement with HMRC was nullified when three creditors with debts exceeding £500,000 joined the winding-up petition.
Before the appointment of joint administrators in July 2023, SLG closed its locations in New York and Hong Kong. The gallery’s former Mayfair space, leased until August 2025, ceased operations in June 2023 and is now rented by Maddox Gallery. Only three out of the 15 employees were retained by the administrators.
BDO declined to answer questions regarding the administration process, as did Simon Lee’s spokesperson.
The report provides a detailed breakdown of SLG’s debt. Notable creditors include PKM in Seoul (£209,351), Mendes Wood DM (£23,552), and The Artist Room in London (£15,480). Hauser & Wirth is listed with an unsecured claim of £3.4m, but the mega-gallery denies being owed any money. Discrepancies in financial records are not uncommon during the administration process.
Several artists represented by SLG are collectively