Michael Shnayerson puts his finger on the source of the Gagosian's success; Jonas Wood gets his freedom; Weitman & Zuckerman bring on Robinson; Artcurial's €30k bronze sells for €3.7m.
This commentary by Marion Maneker is available to AMMpro subscribers. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.)
Gagosian’s Secret: Own the Collectors, Not the Artists
Michael Shnayerson, the Vanity Fair writer, has a book coming out in May about the art market. It’s got an already clichéd title, Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers and the Rise of Contemporary Art. Presumably, the current Vanity Fair story Duel of the Mega Dealers, draws from the book. It tries with some obvious squeezing to shoe-horn the story of Franz West’s estate into a story where the estate was somehow a bone of contention between David Zwirner and Larry Gagosian. Shnayerson picks up on an observation made in a French profile of Zwirner that the dealer and Gagosian are “so competitive that for all the events they have attended together—the art fairs and gallery openings and ceaseless art-world parties—they have never “broken bread” with each other, says Zwirner. Not one face-to-face meal or drink, not one cheery chat.”
In furtherance of depicting Franz West’s estate at the center of a tug-of-war, Shnayerson tries to make West a prize that would fulfill Gagosian’s greatest desire: “Gagosian had a secret longing. He wanted his own primary artists.”
The story of the West estate doesn’t need this device to make it interesting. But Shnayerson has inadvertently stumbled upon an important point. Though it has nothing to do with having his own primary artists. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Gagosian built the first global gallery, still far larger in terms of its operating outlets than any of his rivals by not focusing on having his own primary artists.
Gagosian has been all-too-happy to acquire artists in mid-career from other dealers or, as he has done lately, sell the work of artists who still have another gallery. That’s because Gagosian recognized earlier than most that he could acquire the work from artists, at whatever prices he could negotiate, if he had buyers, reliable buyers.
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