Gavin Brown’s move to Gladstone continues a trend of consolidation in the art market


When it was revealed Last month, when exalted merchant Gavin Brown threw in the towel at his own company to work with Barbara Gladstone, eyebrows were raised as to whether this would be the start of a bigger wave of consolidations in the industry. art. There had been nervous rumbles about the inevitable closures of small galleries due to the economic ramifications of COVID-19, and seeing a strong industry like Gavin Brown’s company disappearing was alarming. But given time to reflect on the implications of this news, many dealers, artists and market watchers see the merger as a must – and perhaps even a positive sign for the future of the art world.
“I have a deep respect for Barbara and the artists she represents,” said, who has been represented by Gavin Brown since 2015 and will move with him to Gladstone. “I am eager to [me and Gavin’s] inspiring relationship continues. I am honored to join Gavin and the other artists of Barbara Gladstone. Likewise optimistic, Francesco Bonami Told critic Jerry Saltz via email: “Barbara Gladstone saved a beautiful dying species to become immortal. “
The movement has precedents. In 2013, Chris D’Amelio joined David Zwirner as a partner after having worked both solo on his own gallery for a year and, previously, in partnership with Lucien Terras, under the name of D’Amelio Terras. Likewise, Zach Feuer abandoned his gallery, which he initially ran solo before merging with Joel Mesler’s Untitled Gallery to form Feuer Mesler-to join the staff of the Art Omi association in upstate New York.

“All of these mergers are happening because there is an underlying problem that both parties to the merger believe is going to be resolved,” Feuer said. “At least in [Feuer Mesler’s] case, the underlying problem for me was just that I didn’t want to be an art dealer, so I figured if I could find someone else who would do half the work, then I couldn’t not be an art dealer.

While Brown’s new position at Gladstone is more of a consolidation than a merger, there is a merging of artist rosters from both galleries. In a statement, Max Falkenstein, a Gladstone partner, used language that makes the move feel like a fusion of visions: with him to continue to develop our agenda together.

Along with Jonas, Brown will bring,,,,,,,, and to Gladstone, who already represents artists such as,,,, and, to name a few. While there is a critical mass of 10 artists with Brown, there is also a group of artists who do not make the leap, including,, and the estate of. As of yet, there has been no announcement on where these artists will be moving.

Feuer speculated: “I guess [the artists that didn’t move to Gladstone] are a little freaked out, and everyone is trying to get paid. Then they will all see what their best options are. He added that this is not necessarily a bad scenario for these artists. “I’m sure a lot of artists, once this merger was announced, started to be courted more aggressively by other galleries or were already doing it,” he said.

Of course, not everyone is equally comfortable with the implications of the move. D’Amelio declined to comment for this article, but in 2013 he Told Observer his decision to join David Zwirner was largely motivated by the economic difficulties associated with operating a mid-sized gallery: “If you are a respected mid-sized gallery, or even a well-respected mid-sized gallery, you are always at this precipice. Getting to the other side can be difficult. You don’t want to slip. Getting into art fairs can be difficult, operating financially can be difficult, dealing with something like Hurricane Sandy can be difficult, dealing with so much can be difficult.
Presumably, much of that statement stands today, substituting the COVID-19 pandemic for Hurricane Sandy. The current economic situation mirrors that of a previous disaster, the 2008 global financial crisis, and shows no signs of improving. According to a survey led by the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA), galleries are expected to experience a 73% loss of their overall gross revenue in the second quarter of this year.

Dealer Kenny Schachter also drew a comparison to recent periods of economic hardship, telling Saltz: “This is the harbinger of unprecedented gallery consolidations and closures far exceeding post-employment cuts. 2008 financial collapse. ”For his part, Saltz confirmed, writing:“ It was not the closure of a gallery that everyone imagined on shaken foundations, it was the closure of a gallery that was, in a profound way, the very image of the contemporary art world. “In announcing Brown’s arrival in her gallery, Barbara Gladstone admitted that” this moment in history is an important time to reflect on de new possibilities in the art world “.

It’s no secret that, regardless of the unique uproar of 2020, any gallery that isn’t in the top five blue chip dealers is struggling to make it work. Mergers seem to be a way to keep less than mega-galleries afloat in one form or another. Since 2015, Van Doren Waxter absorbed the space of the Lower East Side 11R; the Johnen Galerie has merged with Esther schipper; and Brett Gorvy join forces with Dominique Lévy to create Levy Gorvy, to name a few teams. This year, we’ve also seen top galleries – apparent rivals – collaborating, such as when Pace, Gagosian, and Acquavella Ring together to sell the precious collection of Donald Marron.
Besides a general shrinking of the pool of galleries supporting new artists and hosting exhibitions, these mergers inevitably come with job losses. The ADAA reported that in the second quarter of this year, 74 percent of contract workers became unemployed, and even leading galleries such as Pace, David Zwirner, and Gagosian have laid off and laid off workers in recent months. A reduction in jobs in the art world inevitably leads to an even more fierce, competitive and exclusive future.

Much of the speculation about the forces that led Brown to shut down his sprawling Harlem complex and join Gladstone may be due to the greater uncertainty over what the rest of 2020 has in store, and beyond. “I don’t think it indicates anything other than that [Gavin Brown’s Enterprise] need to merge, ”Feuer said. “I know there are still small galleries that are making money, and that there are still artists who don’t want the vibe of mega-galleries that are profitable.”

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