Tuesday sees the official opening of one of the most talked about art galleries in London. Bang next to Sotheby’s, above which it rises by a single, graceful story, the new Richard Green gallery looks as though it has been there for ever. That’s due to the skill of Young Architect of the Year contender George Saumarez Smith, who has effectively rebuilt two previously unremarkable buildings as one, and cloaked it with a magnificent neo-classical façade replete with a Hellenistic-style frieze that spans the width of the building. It’s the first purpose-built art gallery in Bond Street for a century, but, while the exterior looks historic, inside it has been designed as a temple for modern art with no fewer than seven public and private viewing galleries spread over 6,366 sq ft on six floors. The whole concept is a bold statement of Green’s belief in the future of modern art and faith in Mayfair as the centre of the international art market. Having been raised there, he intends to stay, and has laid the foundations for his children and his children’s children to continue a family tradition that began 75 years ago. That was when he was born, and his father, Jimmy Green, opened a gallery in St James’s. At 15, he left school to work with his father, and three years later went out on his own, cashing in a £500 insurance policy to float his business. His first sale was an 18th-century Dutch flower painting that he bought for £100 and sold for £200. Ten years later he opened his first gallery with his wife and partner, Jennifer, who still keeps a maternal eye on things, and, in 1973, sold a controlling share of his business to the merchant bank Samuel Montagu, which allowed him to buy the best quality pictures. “It put me on the map,” he says, alongside the established galleries such as Agnews and Colnaghi’s. By the end of the decade he was able to buy out Montagu, and has been his own man ever since with a simple overdraft arrangement with his high street bank. In 1995, he bought the freehold on the two buildings he has just rebuilt, and in 1998 took the lease on a third gallery, the magisterial former premises of Wildenstein’s opposite Sotheby’s. Today, as Ed Dolman, a former chief executive at Christie’s, says, “he stands out as a dealer who buys for stock, rather than, as is more common these days, on commission or as an advisor. His selection of stock is probably the largest in the UK.” He currently holds some 750 paintings with a book value of more than £100 million. Between 2000 and 2008, his turnover ranged from between £60 million and £90 million each year – second only to Sotheby’s among the UK-based arts and antiques businesses registered at Companies House – and was always in profit. What Green does, therefore, is watched closely. A diligent viewer of the auction rooms, he has a reputation as a market maker, whether for Victorian, sporting or modern British art, in which he is currently a driving force. “He has an amazing eye,” says Old Master dealer Johnny van Haeften. “And he has the remarkable ability to switch his attention from a Dutch still life or an Italian view painting to classic sporting paintings or Impressionist and modern art in rapid succession.” With the opening of the new gallery, Green will divide his business between his former flagship gallery, opposite Sotheby’s, where he will show everything from Old Masters to Impressionists, and the new gallery, which will be devoted to international modern art. Encouraged by his sons, Jonathan and Matthew, who will run the new gallery, it will exhibit an ever-expanding rota of British artists from Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth to William Scott and Patrick Heron, as well as international art from Picasso to Gerhard Richter. But the likes of Damien Hirst might have to wait their turn. “We’re not cutting edge,” says Green, who prefers the tried and tested. A reserved man, not given to gossip or the cocktail party circuit, he does not mince words. The new gallery opens with a show of about 40 works by L S Lowry, an artist Green has been buying for more than 30 years. His latest acquisitions are two paintings from the Lord Forte sale last week, and a record £121,250 Lowry drawing from Bonhams. Virtually recession-proof, Lowry’s prices at auction have increased on average by 11.5 per cent a year since 1976, which is just the sort of language Green’s bank manager will understand. Ever the racing man, Green didn’t get where he is today by backing the wrong horses.