Originally established on Cork Street by Victor and Leslie Waddington in 1958 as The Waddington Galleries, Waddington Custot was formed in 2010 with the partnership of long-time London art dealer Leslie Waddington, and French art dealer Stephane Custot. Since becoming sole owner in 2015, Custot has welcomed renowned artists with whom he has a close connection, including Fabienne Verdier, Zao Wou-Ki, Hans Hartung, Chu Teh-Chun, Pierre Soulages and Bernar Venet. The gallery has since cultivated a rich heritage and an international reputation for expertise in outstanding works by modern and contemporary masters, with a particular focus on monumental sculpture.
The gallery continues to build on its sterling renown and over 60 years of experience, leading with high quality and well-researched exhibitions featuring significant artists of the mid-twentieth century and beyond. Today, Waddington Custot represents foremost contemporary and modern artists and their estates including David Annesley, Peter Blake, Patrick Caulfield, Ian Davenport, Allan D'Arcangelo, Robert Indiana, Jedd Novatt, Pablo Reinoso, Bernar Venet and Fabienne Verdier. The inventory includes works by important modern European artists including Josef Albers, Jean Dubuffet, Hans Hartung, Fausto Melotti, Joan Miró, Pierre Soulages and Maria Helena Vieira da Silva. The gallery's long-standing focus on heavyweight American artists continues through strong relationships with John Chamberlain, Peter Halley, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella and John Wesley.
The Waddington Galleries was founded in 1958 by Victor Waddington, a venerable Dublin art dealer, with his son Leslie. The gallery opened in March of that year at 2 Cork Street, in the heart of London's Mayfair, with an exhibition of late works by Jack B. Yeats, who Victor Waddington had represented in Ireland. Through the years, the gallery would become preeminent in Cork Street and the Waddington name synonymous with it.
The new London gallery continued its tradition, exhibiting paintings and drawings by Yeats and smaller works from the School of Paris, including Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. It also introduced the work of British artists emerging from St Ives - Terry Frost, Patrick Heron and Roger Hilton - and painters and sculptors such as Ivon Hitchens, Elisabeth Frink and William Turnbull.
In February 1965, The Waddington Galleries opened a second gallery space at 25 Cork Street, opposite No. 2. The following year, Victor Waddington moved to this new address, setting up the Victor Waddington Gallery, while Leslie Waddington remained at 2 Cork Street and established his own, separate business, keeping the Waddington Galleries name.
Under Leslie Waddington, Waddington Galleries increased its focus on contemporary British artists, in particular those featured in Bryan Robertson's 'New Generations' exhibitions, held at the Whitechapel Gallery in the mid-1960s, such as David Annesley and Michael Bolus. In November 1968, Leslie opened the Leslie Waddington Gallery around the corner at 8 Vigo Street, specialising in prints. This gallery would become Waddington Graphics, moving to Clifford Street, at No. 16 and later in adjacent 31 Cork Street. Waddington Graphics closed in January 1995, becoming Alan Cristea Gallery under the ownership of the previous gallery director.
On 4 December 1969, Waddington Galleries announced the opening of two further galleries at 34 Cork Street, named Waddington Galleries II and III, with No. 2 being Waddington Galleries I. The gallery became instrumental in the promotion of post-war American art in Britain. From 1969 and throughout the 1970s, the gallery hosted exhibitions of work by American Color Field painters, including Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland and Jules Olitski. As a precursor, the influential work of master colourist, Milton Avery, had been first exhibited at the gallery in 1962.
As well as exhibiting recent work by international contemporary artists, there were numerous shows of European masters, such as Fernand Léger, Matisse and Picasso. British artists, Peter Blake and Patrick Caulfield, were given their first exhibitions at the gallery in 1971 and 1972 respectively, and Ben Nicholson in 1976. In the summer of 1972, the gallery collaborated with Jean Dubuffet for the first time with an ambitious exhibition displayed in all three Waddington Galleries' spaces and at Victor Waddington.
For two years, Waddington joined forces with Arthur Tooth & Sons, a long-established London gallery on Bruton Street dating back to the mid-19th century. The inaugural exhibition of Waddington and Tooth Galleries opened on 30 November 1976. At the time, the merger created one of the largest modern art dealerships in Europe and the association lasted until the autumn of 1978.
The 1980s brought new artists to the gallery, including Michael Craig-Martin, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Mimmo Paladino and Julian Schnabel. Barry Flanagan, who had met Leslie Waddington in 1976, had his first show at Waddington Galleries in 1980. In 1982, Waddington Galleries - now under sole ownership by Leslie following the passing of his father - opened a fourth gallery at 4 Cork Street. This exhibition space was in use until the end of 1983, when the main gallery moved to 11 Cork Street, newly designed by British architect John Pawson. By the end of the 1980s, two additional Waddington galleries had been opened at 5 & 12 Cork Street.
A number of younger artists joined the gallery in the 1990s, including Ian Davenport, Michael Landy and Fiona Rae, all graduates of Goldsmiths College, London, who had been taught by Michael Craig-Martin. The group exhibition 'From Here', in 1995, celebrated this new generation of artists. Spanish artist, Antoni Tàpies, had his first show at the gallery in 1991 and his major exhibition, 'A Summer's Work', in 1994, was the last at No. 5. The gallery took on representation of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation in 1996. By the end of the decade, after the closure of No. 34 in 1998, Waddington Galleries was consolidated at 11 & 12 Cork Street, with the incorporation and re-design of the two galleries into one large exhibition space. Waddington Custot remains in that beautiful space to this day.
The gallery continued its pioneering work in the first decade of the 21st century, hosting the first London solo exhibition of Robert Indiana in over 10 years in 2004 as well as the first survey of John Wesley's career in the United Kingdom in 2008. The estate of mid-century Italian modernist Fausto Melotti joined the gallery in 2006 with a first show focusing on sculpture and works on paper. Exhibitions at Waddington Galleries from 2000-2010 showcased a continued commitment to modern masters such as Albers and Avery while also celebrating new work from venerated artists Caulfield, Flanagan, Rauschenberg and Tàpies, and contemporary practitioners Craig-Martin, Axel Hütte, Lucas Samaras and Bridget Riley.
In 2010, Leslie Waddington entered into partnership with French art dealer Stephane Custot to create Waddington Custot. Custot - becoming sole owner in 2015 after Waddington's passing - would welcome artists to the gallery with whom he has a close connection, including Fabienne Verdier, Zao Wou-Ki, Hans Hartung, Chu Teh-Chun, Pierre Soulages and Bernar Venet. In 2016, the gallery exhibited 'Vibration of Space', creating an exciting dialogue between British painter Patrick Heron and non-figurative painters of post-war Paris: de Staël, Hartung and Soulages. Other ambitious group exhibitions include 'Two Pataphysicians: Flanagan Miró' (2014) and 'Rodin, Brancusi, Moore: Through the Sculptor's Lens' (2015). In 2017, contemporary French painter Verdier joined the gallery and had her first solo exhibition in London, 'Rhythms and Reflections'. Waddington Custot welcomed the estate of American artist Allan D'Arcangelo in 2018 and announced representation of conceptual artist and monumental sculptor Venet in 2020.