The New York Times story on prominent commercial galleries mounting important exhibitions curated by seasoned former museum directors has succinct story illustrating how the process can work to the gallery’s advantage without having the curators act as business development directors (although the story does open with a “scare” anecdote suggesting just that, the rest of the piece makes it clear that there’s enough of a “chinese wall” between the two processes.)
When Larry Gagosian first approached Mr. Elderfield in 2012 about organizing exhibitions for his gallery, Mr. Elderfield proposed a show about artists using their own studios as a subject of their art — something he had wanted to do at MoMA — and was given carte blanche by Mr. Gagosian.
Mr. Elderfield spent the next two years negotiating loans of 51 works from across four centuries, drawn predominantly from museums and foundations, and brought in Mr. Galassi to organize a photography counterpart for the “In the Studio” show.
“This was just a liberation,” said Mr. Elderfield, who has also organized two shows of Helen Frankenthaler and one of Willem de Kooning at Gagosian.
Such costly shows, with their lavish catalogs and huge insurance expenses, may turn out to be good financial bets. Commercial galleries are in the business of selling art, of course. And after Mr. Elderfield made his loan requests to museums, foundations, estates, artists, galleries and private collectors, “there were three instances where the owners said if there was any interest, they would sell the work,” he said. The gallery then sent consignment agreements to the private owners.
Neither Mr. Elderfield nor Mr. Galassi was involved in these conversations. (The gallery declined to confirm which works — or how many in the two shows — were for sale.) But with paintings by de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and Richard Diebenkorn among those contributed by private parties, even several works for sale could bring many millions of dollars.
Mr. Galassi pointed out that “any loan to a museum exhibition” from a private collection is potentially for sale. But museums wouldn’t broker that transaction, as Gagosian would have.
Blurring the Museum-Gallery Divide (NYTimes.com)