In one of the strongest signs yet that the art market will not be alike after the pandemic – and in an apparent effort to counter the growing dominance of mega galleries – four leading dealers have made the decision unorthodox to come together under one roof.
Dominique Lévy, Brett Gorvy, Amalia Dayan and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn will become LGDR in January, a consortium that will represent artists, organize exhibitions, advise collectors and negotiate auctions.
By joining forces, the quartet is betting that they will be more effective together than separately at a time when the gallery sector has seen sales plummet by 20% (to around $ 29.3 billion) and many galleries small and medium size close due to the high operating costs.
The partners, who dissolve their existing businesses and merge into a single entity, aim to offer a new one-stop-shop model that would give artists and collectors the advantage of having four experienced dealers with different areas of expertise. The consortium could nibble the livelihoods of rival art advisers, auction houses and art fairs.
Further disrupting the traditional model of the art market, LGDR plans to not participate in any expensive American art fairs – like Art Basel Miami or Frieze New York – by attending only those in Asia, where the fairs remain an important gateway to a wider range of young collectors.
“We looked at ourselves in the mirror and tried to figure out who we are and what is the best way to address our customers,” Gorvy, 57, said in a joint video interview with his partners. “What is the right business model? We don’t have to do it all, but we can do it all.
Given the importance and high profile of the four actors, the news is sure to make waves, raising questions about what such an unusual merger signals for a rapidly changing art world: a climate still more difficult for galleries already in difficulty? Less physical space as dealers move in together? Less competition and more cooperation?
“During the pandemic, the four of us were discussing the art world and what Covid had stopped and what Covid had accelerated,” said Lévy, 54. “We realized that we wanted to share and collaborate.”
Partners may also look to compete with behemoths Gagosian, Zwirner, Pace and Hauser & Wirth, which increasingly look like corporate monopolies – expanding their buildings, adding locations and gobbling up trendy artists.
Rohatyn, for example, lost artist Lorna Simpson to Hauser & Wirth, who also recently faced off against David Kordansky’s Simone Leigh and Monique Meloche’s Amy Sherald.
In other recent examples of consolidation, Gavin Brown joined Gladstone and Zach Feuer merged his gallery with that of Joel Mesler.
LGDR will be based in the impressive Upper East Side space that Rohatyn’s gallery, Salon 94, opened in March. The Neo-Renaissance Townhouse on East 89th Street, a former home of the National Academy of Design, was recently restored and refurbished by architect Rafael Viñoly.
Lévy and Gorvy will abandon their current Madison Avenue gallery, Lévy Gorvy. Dayan, 49, recently left his longtime gallery, Luxembourg & Dayan, which closed its New York space and continued under the name Luxembourg + Co., staging special projects throughout the city (his London gallery remains open).
Rohatyn, 54, was already seeking public approval to add 8,500 square feet to his new gallery for offices, library and private exhibition rooms, which will allow the 1915 building to house the new team.
The four have been friends for over 20 years and have worked together informally. Dayan and Rohatyn launched a parallel art consulting business last year that will now be part of LGDR.
“The idea of collaboration seemed very relevant,” Dayan said. “We were all locked in different places talking to each other. “
In February, the three women met on vacation in Aspen, Colo., And, while on a hike, began talking about pooling their talents and resources. They then called Gorvy, a former president of Christie’s who left in 2016 to join Lévy. A series of conversations followed.
Dayan came up with a Venn diagram that showed how their various practices overlapped and could complement each other.
While society will encourage cross-pollination, each partner will have an area of interest that plays to their strengths – Rohatyn’s is contemporary art; Lévy is Europe; and that of Gorvy is Asia. Dayan will take care of the Middle East and have a management role (the other partners joke about his military leadership skills: his grandfather was Moshe Dayan, the famous Israeli general and statesman).
The partnership also aims to be more nimble than most major dealers – to move away from the exclusive representation of artists; present exhibitions of various artists with the casual celerity of ephemeral galleries; manage both the initial sale of works of art and resold works; and show together contemporary and historical works.
“You will see an incredible Giacometti facing an incredible Huma Bhabha,” Rohatyn said. “It is the possibility that it allows.”
The consortium will represent both living artists and estates as well as advice to collectors on buying and auctioning.
“We are a hybrid,” said Lévy. “We are not a gallery, we are not an advisor.”
While their merger will provide economies of scale, the partners said finances were not the driving force, they were driven by a common belief in exhibits, research and curation.
While galleries traditionally divide the proceeds from sales with artists, Lévy said “every deal is different”, adding that the estate is no longer “in a 50-50 landscape”.
Just as auction houses have eaten up gallery territory with private sales of works of art to collectors, galleries are now seeking a share of the auction action. Last year, Gorvy and Lévy hired Rebecca Wei, former president of Christie’s Asia, as a partner.
LGDR will be able to advise auction houses on pricing, informed by its knowledge of private sales, Gorvy said.
In an era when the art world realizes the importance of equity and inclusion, there will undoubtedly be those who will question the desirability of a business run by four white members of the middle age of the artistic establishment. But the partners said they are firmly committed to the diversity of their teams and artists.
Part of what Rohatyn brings to the table is a long-standing focus on women artists and artists of color (her list includes, for example, Derrick Adams, Magdalene AN Odundo, and Yukultji Napangati).
“I made a business of looking at the margins,” Rohatyn said. “It’s my passion and my program.
The partners said they recognize that they are four strong personalities with big egos, that some clashes are inevitable. But each said they would try to listen to each other and overcome their differences. “Four musketeers are by definition stronger,” said Lévy. “This decision comes from a place of strength – the desire to do something new.”