The New York Times has a wide ranging report-around profile of Larry Gagosian. The conceit of the piece: that Gagosian is vulnerable to a collapse of the art market because he benefited the most from its rise, therefore he must have the farthest to fall”
Dogged, unreadable and enamored with risk, he has long held some of the best hands in the vast Texas hold ’em game that is the art market. But that was before Dow 6,600, before virtually everything with a price tag went on sale. Auction houses have begun to report sales that are less than half their level a year ago. [ . . . ] Everyone is vulnerable. Especially Larry Gagosian.
His business is the ultimate black-box operation, a never-ending and international swirl of cash and canvas that is built for maximum secrecy. What is certain is that his overhead is a multiple of his competitors’. Also certain is that the prices of work by the young artists he has been luring into his galleries — prices that have doubled or tripled in some cases, courtesy of his imprimatur — are falling like bank stocks. Worst of all, the days of the $75 million private deal have ground to a halt.
The writer, David Segal, is at pains to get somewhere with his story. He tries a few different tacks. Here he fingers Gagosian’s ability to identify and remember the location of a wide range of important pictures:
To understand Mr. Gagosian’s success you need to understand that the postwar art world is basically a stock market with a couple of thousand really valuable shares. Few people have any idea where those shares are located, because they’re hanging in the homes and sitting in the warehouses of collectors, who, for obvious security reasons, tend to keep their holdings well-guarded secrets.
If you want to spend $30 million on a de Kooning, you can check what’s in the catalogs of the coming Sotheby’s and Christie’s sales. But if you don’t find what you want, you’ll probably call Mr. Gagosian. One of his talents is simply ingratiating himself with the richest collectors in the world, which gives him access to their homes, which allows him to take note of what great works are where. By all accounts he has an excellent memory, but his secret weapon, if it can be called that, is the lowly camera, which he’s been known to use on the Q.T.
Pulling Art Sales Out of Thinning Air (New York Times)