With a dazzling premises on Davies Street in Mayfair, Kallos gallery announced itself with a big fanfare a just two years ago, hoping to blow away the cobwebs from the creaky doors and knock “ring for entry” signs off of the stuffy world of antiquities. Specialising in Ancient Greek art, Kallos was born out of a love for collecting antiquities by its founder, Baron Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza (whose father founded the Thyssen Museum in Madrid). The London gallery has vast open windows, allowing visual access in to the space, with fine pieces displayed in its window – far from the tradition for keeping the murky dealings of the art dealing world behind closed curtains.
Trying to do away with intimidation is what Lorne is all about – his gallery works closely with scholars and academics from around the world, as well as paying for research grants to the University of Oxford and the Open University. And the list of good deeds doesn’t stop there; the gallery supports projects to teach Latin and Greek in state schools, invites in classes of students of all ages inside and encourages them to engage with the objects, sponsors archaeological excavations in regions such as Tunisia and Turkey employing local people to help run the projects, and has teamed up with Help For Heroes to offer wounded ex-servicemen the chance to start a new career as archaeologists. For the antiquities world, this kind of work is unheard of.
Traditionally, the dealer and the archaeologist have been arch nemesis, one trying to preserve for the public, the other chasing money through placing things in private hands, and the two would bitterly fight it out. Yet Lorne is reshaping this model – if historians, archaeologists, academics, collectors and dealers can all work together, these things can be placed in private hands, but only after all the necessary research, documentation and scholarship has been done on them – and once the public has had a chance to come and see them firsthand. Everyone is happy.
This year, Kallos is showing at Frieze Masters for the first time. As one of a handful of galleries representing the antiquities trade, their small but mighty and much anticipated booth signals their arrival at the most glam of fairs; and their pieces are exquisite. Most important of all, is a bronze Cretan helmet from 620 BC. that is the only such example in the world, and will have collectors and museums alike reaching for their chequebooks (if their balance is in the millions…). They also have a selection of coins, statues, vases and jewellery – each more fine than the last.
Whilst being shown around the booth by Lorne, it becomes quickly apparent just how much of both a love for, and knowledge of, these things he has. He has just completed a part-time Bachelor’s Degree in Classics, and is keen to show photos of himself on site at archaeological digs, getting his hands dirty. He is the first to agree that there is a certain charm from antiquities, knowing that they were both beautiful works of art, but also objects of function – one only has to shut their eyes and imagine a Greek vase being used for pouring wine at a symposium in Athens some 2,500 years ago, to instantly fall in love with it.
Their booth at Frieze Masters may not be the most outlandish or attention grabbing out there, but its refinedness lets the quality of the works speak for themselves. Lorne’s passion also speaks volumes, with rigorous scholarship and charitable work always taking pride of place in his business ethos. Kallos are bringing the antiquities game in to the 21st century, and we for one, are very happy to see it happen and hope it may inspire others to follow suit.
Kallos Gallery, Stand B5, Frieze Masters, 6-9 October 2016, Regent’s Park, London
Kallos Gallery, 14-16 Davies Street, London W1K 3DR