Everybody Switch! Armory Art Week Begins Amid Epidemic of Gallery Swapping
By Paul Laster and Alexandra Peers Via the New York Observer
As New York's Armory Arts week kicks off, the art world is playing something of a manic game of "Where's Waldo?" Or, rather, "Where's Kehinde?" In a mass migration of talent, more than 50 artists have jumped ship to new galleries over the past two years, creating a very different art scene than the one that existed before the recession.
Whether it's for production money, a bigger cut of sales or more wall space, or due to the closing of galleries like Deitch Projects, Bellwether and Goff + Rosenthal, and the downsizing of other's stables (Andrea Rosen, Zach Feuer), the resulting moves represent the biggest reshuffling of the art-world since the market crashed in the early 1990s, according to several art dealers and artists. "During times of economic strain, there's always a lot of free-radical movement going on," said art adviser Todd Levin of the Levin Art Group, as some dealers and artists turn "skittish"— and make tracks.
Winners and losers in the broad shake-up? Paul Kasmin, who's showing William Copley at the Art Dealers Association of America fair this week, a recent "get" from David Nolan Gallery, has gone on something of a raiding spree—of rival Marlborough in particular. Mary Boone has recently snagged three artists from other galleries, including cult painter Peter Saul, to add to a stable that includes Terence Koh and Eric Fischl. David Zwirner and Hauser & Wirth have also beefed up their rosters at the expense of smaller players.
But the biggest winner in the shift is probably—no surprise—Larry Gagosian. He picked up veteran Ab-Ex sculptor John Chamberlain last week; Robert Rauschenberg's estate (both snatched from Pace, though Pace snagged the Willem de Kooning estate back from him) and Andreas Gursky, among others. There's Dan Colen, too—although the Dash Snow cohort had shown at Gagosian galleries outside New York as far back as 2008. But then, it's a Gagosian "tell" to show artists who he's courting in other cities before they eventually end up in his New York spaces.
Look at another one of his "newer" artists: Gregory Crewdson. The conceptual photographer had shown for years with Gagosian in Beverly Hills, but had kept longtime representation Luhring Augustine as his main dealer—until Gagosian backing helped him create some of the more ambitious works of his career. The gallery is said to have picked up production costs for a digital series shot on location at the legendary Cinecittà studios on the outskirts of Rome.
One of the most notable gets was Kehinde Wiley. Everyone wanted Mr. Wiley, perhaps Jeffrey Deitch's biggest star, when the dealer left town to become director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. The hip hop painter with the high profile (he's been the "official" artist of VH1's Hip Hop Honors, among other cross-platform gigs.) is best known for his black entertainment stars and urban youths painted, beautifully, in the style of Titian, David and the Old Masters Sean Kelly won him with his blockbuster representation of Marina Abramović and the Robert Mapplethorpe estate. Mr. Wiley says he's excited, and to expect "mega-monumental paintings" to come out of the collaboration, but a New York show is likely about a year away.
Traditionally, artists split sales proceeds with the dealer 50-50. As an artist becomes more important or popular, the dealer will increasingly pick up production costs of making the art—a pricey offer in the case of sculpture—and some superstar artists, such as Jasper Johns, are known to take a higher percentage of the take from their sales. So, normally, after an artist moves, his or her prices jump, in order to recoup the dealer's expenses.
Not in this market, though. Surprisingly, most dealers said they were not changing their artist's prices after the move. Sara VanDerBeek, hot after a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art last year, still carries prices from about $3,000 to $60,000, said Alison Card of Metro Pictures—the same as when she was at D'Amelio Terras Gallery. "We've been fans of Sara's work for a long time, since she opened Guild & Greyshkul. We've been watching steadily." The artist will be doing a show in Metro's upstairs gallery next fall.
Some artists just wanted more room. Mel Kendrick left Davin Nolan for Mary Boone last fall because "David Nolan didn't offer the size," said Ron Warren, a director of Mary Boone. Artist Jim Isermann joined, too. Mr. Warren concluded his "work fits well with our program. We have a great space for installations."