LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Larry Gagosian: The Collector Behind the Dealer


On the eve of the opening of the ninth Gagosian Gallery in Paris, the famously press-shy über-art dealer Larry Gagosian is revealing a rare glimpse of the man behind the brand in the first exhibition of his private collection.

At a hôtel particulier in Paris’ golden triangle, construction work is advancing at a furious pace to ready the ninth Gagosian Gallery for its October 20 opening date. Behind the handsome façade, the Paris-based architect Jean-Francois Bodin, in collaboration with London architectural firm Caruso St John, is creating a four-storey, 900-square-meter space. Elsewhere, curators are preparing to install the inaugural exhibitions of five new paintings by Cy Twombly in the main gallery, as well as a retrospective of the work of industrial designer Jean Prouvé in another space.

This is a busy time for Larry Gagosian. His new Paris gallery joins outposts in Los Angeles, New York, London, Rome, and Athens. As well as more traditional exhibitions at all of these galleries, he is selling Aquariva by Marc Newson, a yacht that was produced in a run of 22. At Gagosian Boutique (a retail spin-off of the gallery that exists both online and at a stand alone store in New York), he has just launched a series of limited edition products also by Marc Newson, from sneakers to clocks. He is gearing up for the important contemporary art auctions in November. Most significantly, Gagosian is staging the first ever exhibition of his private collection in Abu Dhabi.

“RSTW (Rauschenberg, Ruscha, Serra, Twombly, Warhol and Wool)” opened at the Manaat Al Saadiyat exhibition space on September 22. Featuring 72 artworks from Mr. Gagosian’s private collection, it includes paintings, sculptures, drawings, and photography by the six artists, all of which – except for Wool – are represented by Gagosian. Anne Baldassari, the curator and chairman of the National Picasso Museum, Paris, interpreted Gagosian’s collection in the role of the exhibition’s curator.

There are two assessments to make of Mr. Gagosian’s collection. The first is one of character and his preference for abstract images and Pop Art. The second is one of investment: what does the most informed and well-connected forces in the art world spend is own money on?

But the question that many in the art world are asking is why, after decades of shrouding himself in secrecy, is Gagosian now exposing himself in such a way. Market watchers say that the answer lies in the location of the exhibition. Talking of the mood in the art market last year, Gagosian commented: "Abu Dhabi in particular has become a compelling situation because of not only the possibility for private collections but the very ambitious museums that are being built there." For above all, Larry Gagosian is a businessman, as well as a collector and dealer.

What does the art world have to say about him?

“A force synonymous with the market itself”
- The Economist

“For an artist, going to Gagosian is like playing for the Yankees.”
- Sandy Heller, art advisor

“Of two great paintings, Larry can determine what makes one greater.”
- Leo Castelli, the late art dealer who was Gagosian’s mentor

“Is he a connoisseur? Unquestionably. Can he turn connoisseurship into profit? Absolutely.”
- Paul Schimmel, chief curator at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art

“Gagosian is fast, he’s reactive and he’s somewhat aggressive.”
- Philippe Segalot, art advisor

“He’s sort of a combination of a corporate raider, a dark lord, Peggy Guggenheim, and a railroad magnate.”
- Jerry Saltz, art critic

"Neither Larry nor I have a lot of time to waste. We don't need hours of discussion. We talk about things quickly and make decisions. He enjoys bidding for me. He likes to have people think he's the buyer of the work he's bidding on. And that's fine."
- Eli Broad, collector

More info:

“RSTW (Rauschenberg, Ruscha, Serra, Twombly, Warhol and Wool)” runs until January 24, 2011, at Manaat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi

Gagosian Paris opens on October 20

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