October 4, 2023

Some main namespaces have been closed. Marian Goodman in London, Gavin Brown in New York and Gagosian in San Francisco have been permanently closed since March. Compared to the High Street retail sector, where the coronavirus and the move to online shopping have resulted in a plethora of bankruptcies and job losses, the top-end contemporary art dealers have proven to be relatively resilient with their higher prices and margins proven.

Although sales may be declining, international galleries are continuing to expand their physical presence. The Italian dealerships Massimo De Carlo and Continua have opened branches in Paris, which underlines the growing importance of the French capital on the European art market after Brexit. Xavier Hufkens enlarges one of his exhibition rooms in Brussels three times. And then there is Hauser & Wirth’s long-planned 16,000 square meter arts center in a disused marine hospital on Isla del Rey on the island of Menorca.

This museum-style collaborative project, which opened in July with an exhibition of works by Los Angeles abstract painter Mark Bradford, maintains Hauser & Wirth’s reputation for counterintuitive “runaway” locations like its Somerset, England office.

For the founder of the mega-gallery, Iwan Wirth, and many other retailers, a prestigious urban location is no longer the only key to success. They point out that international collectors have now got used to bidding great prices at online auctions for works of art that they have not yet seen in person.

“‘Phygital’ is the future of commercial art galleries,” said Wirth, referring to a hybrid business model that combines digital and physical experiences. This new way of working emerged during the pandemic, he added.

“It takes bricks and mortar. Artists react to a physical context that is digitally accessible to everyone everywhere, ”said Wirth. As an example, Wirth referred to Los Angeles-based artist Henry Taylor, who recently created a work in the gated Hauser & Wirth gallery in Somerset. On Friday this became visible and available online. The price ranged from $ 65,000 to $ 750,000.