The city of Naples is an unusual choice for an art dealer looking to expand internationally? Not for Thomas Dane!


The founder of the London-based gallery that bears his name, the idea of opening a new outpost on the Mediterranean coast was irresistible: “I can’t think of another city in Europe where I would like to see a gallery. This is an intuitive move. It’s a risk, but also an adventure.”

The Naples annex will not only showcase the gallery’s artists—an impressive stable that includes photographer Catherine Opie and conceptualist Glenn Ligon—but also help shield them from the pressures of a globalized market: The refurbishment includes rooms in which artists will be able to stay.

Looking over the bay from the veranda of the historic 19th-century palazzo, restored by local architects Alberto Sifola and Vincenzo Sposato, it’s easy to see why an artist would want to spend time here. It’s also clear why collectors would want to visit.

Dane’s instinctive attraction to Naples might partly be explained by his early passion for the Italian and Spanish old masters.

After studying the history of Renaissance and 17th-century art at University College London, he became involved in contemporary art when Vanessa Branson invited him to work at the gallery she had established in 1986.

Traditionally, the next step for ambitious young dealers is to open their own space, but Dane—by his own account a remarkably shy individual in an industry that can seem to run on bluster—preferred to take his time and find his own path.

So while peers including Jay Jopling and Sadie Coles were setting up galleries in London in the mid-1990s, Dane worked behind the scenes, supporting artists on one-off projects, dealing on the secondary market and helping institutions build collections.

But everything changed in 2001 when he was approached by the Turner Prize–winning video artist—now Oscar-winning filmmaker—Steve McQueen.

“Steve and I went out to dinner,” remembers Dane. “I didn’t know him very well, though of course I knew his work. And he said to me, ‘I want to switch galleries.’ So I suggested where he should move to, and then he said, ‘Well, why don’t you represent me?’ ”