Fine Art Connoisseur January/February 2019, Editor’s Note:
Something to Keep an Eye On
By Peter Trippi
It’s a matter of debate how the art market is faring today, but one thing we know for sure is that the world’s approximately two dozen “super-galleries” are going from big to bigger. Operating not only in New York City and London but also in other money centers like Hong Kong and Los Angeles, these mega-firms oﬀer eye-wateringly expensive cutting-edge contemporary and classic modern art.
Examples of these galleries include Gagosian, White Cube, Hauser & Wirth, Pace, David Zwirner, and Lévy Gorvy. Extremely eﬀective at grooming rising stars and getting their artworks into museums’ collections and exhibitions, they have earned their success. And some of them are behaving like more than galleries — in fact, like foundations and museums.
For example, Hauser & Wirth (H&W) has established the Hauser & Wirth Institute, an independent nonprofit private operating foundation dedicated to supporting art historical scholarship and enhancing researchers’ access to the archives of modern and contemporary artists. Directed by a distinguished former curator of contemporary art, the institute is, according to co-founder Iwan Wirth, “a natural extension of our gallery’s support of living artists and the noteworthy estates and foundations we have represented for over 25 years.”
Recently the institute announced the three senior scholars who have won its first crop of research fellowships, and also that it has underwritten online catalogues raisonnés devoted to Jason Rhoades (whose estate H&W represents) and Franz Kline (whose it does not).
Such enlightened self-interest complements the magnificent facilities H&W oﬀers its artists and clients. In New York City it is temporarily housed in the four-story building where the Dia Art Foundation once mounted exhibitions; it contains a bar, a bookshop selling the gallery’s self-published books, and a space for its own educational programs. (Sounds like a museum, no?) And H&W is constructing a permanent home down the street on a 7,400-square-foot site. That is a lot of real estate in New York.
H&W is not alone in planning for steroidal growth. Next September, just three blocks north, Pace Gallery will open a headquarters that stands eight stories high, with 75,000 square feet of usable space including a 10,000-volume research library open to the public by appointment. (Sounds like a museum, no?) A block away, in 2020 David Zwirner Gallery will open a five-story building with 50,000 square feet of exhibition space designed by American museums’ favorite architect, Renzo Piano. Once complete, this will bring the number of Zwirner locations in New York to four, and in the world to seven.
As with so much in our society, the big keep getting bigger and cultural spheres continue to mix it up. (Think, for example, of Miuccia Prada and Giorgio Armani’s creation of museum-like venues that exhibit contemporary artists.) Readers of Fine Art Connoisseur might want to follow what the biggest galleries do next because ultimately their success (or failure) will aﬀect how everyone else regards the art world.
No matter their size, all galleries play important roles in our art ecosystem. There are so many artists out there who need and want to work with dealers, not to mention all the collectors who look to them for guidance. Ensuring all players are healthy and appreciated will always benefit our field as a whole.
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