As one of the strongest signs that the art market will no longer look like this after the pandemic – and to counter the increasing dominance of mega galleries – four prominent dealers have made the unorthodox decision to consolidate under one roof.
Dominique Lévy, Brett Gorvy, Amalia Dayan and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn will join LGDR in January, a consortium that represents artists, organizes exhibitions, advises collectors and arranges auction sales.
At a time when the gallery sector has seen sales drop by 20 percent (to an estimated $ 29.3 billion) and many small and medium-sized galleries due to high operating costs.
The partners, who are dissolving their existing businesses and merging them into one unit, want to offer a new model of one-stop-shopping that offers artists and collectors the advantage of having four experienced dealers with different specialist areas. The consortium could eat up the livelihoods of competing art consultants, auction houses and art fairs.
In order to further disrupt the traditional art market model, LGDR plans not to participate in costly American art fairs – like Art Basel Miami or Frieze New York – but only to participate in Asia, where fairs remain an important gateway to a broader spectrum of young collectors.
“We looked at each other in the mirror and tried to understand who we are and how we best address our customers,” said Gorvy, 57, during a joint video interview with his partners. “Which business model is appropriate? We don’t have to do everything, but we can do everything. “
Given the prominence and prominence of the four actors, the news will make waves and raise the question of what such an unusual merger means for a rapidly changing art world: an even more difficult climate for already ailing galleries? Fewer stationary rooms due to the merchants moving together? Less competition and more cooperation?
“During the pandemic, the four of us discussed the art world and what Covid had stopped and what had Covid accelerated,” said Lévy, 54. “We realized we had a desire to share and work together.”
The partners may also want to compete for business with the Gagosian, Zwirner, Pace, and Hauser & Wirth, who are increasingly appearing like corporate monopolies – expanding their buildings, adding locations, and devouring hot artists.
Rohatyn, for example, lost the artist Lorna Simpson to Hauser & Wirth, who recently also took over Simone Leigh from David Kordansky and Amy Sherald from Monique Meloche.
In other recent examples of consolidation, Gavin Brown joined Gladstone and Zach Feuer merged his gallery with that of Joel Mesler.
LGDR will be based in the impressive Upper East Side space that Rohatyn’s Salon 94 gallery opened in March. The neo-Renaissance townhouse on East 89th Street, a former National Academy of Design home, was recently restored and renovated by architect Rafael Viñoly.
Lévy and Gorvy will be giving up their current gallery on Madison Avenue, Lévy Gorvy. Dayan, 49, recently left her longtime gallery Luxembourg & Dayan, which has closed its New York space and continues as Luxembourg + Co., staging special projects across the city (the London gallery remains open).
Rohatyn, 54, has already requested public approval to expand their new 8,500 square foot gallery to include offices, a library, and private viewing rooms that will allow the 1915 building to house the new team.
The four have been friends for more than 20 years and have worked together informally. Dayan and Rohatyn founded a side art advisory company together last year, which is now part of LGDR.
“The idea of working together felt very relevant,” said Dayan. “We were all locked in different places and talked to each other.”
In February, the three women were vacationing in Aspen, Colorado, and began talking about pooling their talents and resources while on a hike. They then called Gorvy, a former Christie’s chairman who joined Lévy in 2016. A series of conversations followed.
Dayan created a Venn Diagram showing how their various practices can overlap and complement each other.
While the company will encourage cross-pollination, each partner will have a focus that plays out their core strengths – Rohatyns is contemporary art; Lévys is Europe; and Gorvys is Asia. Dayan will take care of the Middle East and take on a leadership role (the other partners joke their military leadership skills: their grandfather was Moshe Dayan, the famous Israeli general and statesman).
The partnership should also be more flexible than most large dealers – away from the exclusive representation of artists; Present exhibitions of various artists with the casual quickness of pop-up galleries; to handle both the first sale of art and works that are resold; and to show contemporary and historical works together.
“You will see an amazing Giacometti facing an amazing huma bhabha,” said Rohatyn. “That is the possibility that makes it possible.”
The consortium will represent living artists and estates as well as advise collectors on buying and selling at auctions.
“We’re a hybrid,” said Lévy. “We are not a gallery, not a consultancy.”
Although their union will produce economies of scale, the partners said that finances were not the driving force, but that they were motivated by a shared belief in exhibitions, research and the board of trustees.
While galleries traditionally share sales with artists, Lévy said that “every deal is different”, adding that the field is no longer “in a 50-50 landscape”.
Just as auction houses eat their way into the territory of the galleries with private sales of works of art to collectors, galleries are now trying to get hold of a part of the auction activity. Last year Gorvy and Lévy partnered with Rebecca Wei, the former chairwoman of Christie’s Asia.
LGDR will be able to advise auction houses on pricing based on its knowledge of private sales, Gorvy said.
At a time when the art world is realizing the importance of equity and inclusion, there will undoubtedly be those who question the timeliness of a company run by four white middle-aged artisans. But the partners said they are committed to diversity in their staff and their artists.
Part of what Rohatyn brings in is a longstanding emphasis on artists (their list includes, for example, Derrick Adams, Magdalene AN Odundo, and Yukultji Napangati).
“I’ve made margins my business,” said Rohatyn. “This is my passion and my program.”
The partners said that they realize that they are four strong personalities with big egos that some clashes are inevitable. But everyone said they would try to listen to each other and work through their differences. “Four musketeers are stronger by definition,” said Lévy. “This decision comes from a place of strength – the desire to do something new.”