Sebastian Smee does an excellent job of detailing the top-notch shows being put on by New York galleries, like Gagosian’s Fontana exhibition. But when he tries to explain why galleries have begun to outshine museums with their scholarly shows, the critic fails to find a reason that would explain the timing.
Galleries have been wealthy and successful for some time. Today’s art boom started nearly 15 years ago. The secondary market, too, has always been important to galleries and central source of income.
But for Smee the answer seems to come down to the usual art world answer: money.
Two things strike me as interesting about the phenomenon of commercial galleries putting on historically important, museum-quality shows. The first is that the galleries themselves — if they are wealthy and established enough — can move quickly and with a high degree of freedom.
Unencumbered by vast bureaucracies and budget committees, they can attract loans even from great museums, and put on shows that those same museums might not take on, because they might not be popular hits. (The exhibition at Gagosian of Manzoni, who died in 1963 at 29, was that influential artist’s first US retrospective.)
The second interesting thing follows from the first. Precisely because of their wealth and maneuverability, outfits like Gagosian in New York and White Cube in London can now attract the kinds of collaborators we might usually expect to see working with museums: big name architects to design the exhibition spaces (the Richard Avedon show at Gagosian’s 21st Street gallery was ingeniously designed by David Adjaye of Adjaye Associates), and prominent scholars such as Richardson, Feaver, and Celant.
New York Galleries Staging Museum Quality Exhibitions (Boston Globe)