Contemporary galleries face intense competition, must re-think game plan

ART MARKET TRENDS CONTEMPORARY ART GALLERIES

As pointed out in a recent The Art Newspaper article, competition has never been fiercer for international contemporary galleries so today the top ones are focussing on building their global brand. As demand for contemporary artwork grows, the size and number of contemporary art galleries that sell it increases.

Below we summarise The Art Newspapers’ “Gallery Giants tighten their grip”, written by Melanie Gerlis for the Art Basel Miami Beach daily edition (2010).

Cao Fei, 'Room 807', 2002, photo, 21 x 29.7 cm, 9 pieces. This artwork was presented at Art Basel Miami Beach by Vitamin Creative Space. Image taken from artbaselmiamibeach-online.com.

Cao Fei, 'Room 807', 2002, photo, 21 x 29.7 cm, 9 pieces. This artwork was presented at Art Basel Miami Beach by Vitamin Creative Space. Image taken from artbaselmiamibeach-online.com.

Larger and more numerous spaces spread over various continents are needed to showcase artworks, and artists and art professionals are favouring galleries that can provide this. And increasingly big-brand auction houses are organising curated exhibitions, adding a new element to the competitive mix. Quotes the article,

“Artists don’t want to wait another two years for a show,” [dealer Thaddaeus] Ropac says. “If we can’t offer them one straight away, someone else will.”

The Art Basel Miami Beach 2010 gallery line-up could be said to prove this point. The fair’s floorplan, writes Gerlis, was arranged according to the current art market hierarchy with a few of the top players like Gladstone Gallery, David Zwirner, Gagosian Gallery and The Pace Gallery occupying the most coveted spaces.

Art Basel Miami Beach 2010 exhibition view. Image taken from ArtObserved.com.

Art Basel Miami Beach 2010 exhibition view. Image taken from ArtObserved.com.

It seems that today, for those that can afford it, gallery owners really have to go all out. The article reports that Hauser & Wirth, for example, opened a 15,000 square-foot space in London in February 2010, in addition to their galleries in New York and Zurich, and Gagosian Gallery is planning to open its eleventh space in its eighth city, Hong Kong, early this year. The article goes on to say,

The gallery’s rapid expansion seems to play to today’s cash-rich but time-poor collectors. (Gagosian is rumoured to have sold seven works within the opening hour of the fair on Wednesday.) Other galleries have to play the same game—assuming they can afford to—or are forced to rethink their business models.

But with such an increase in number and size there are consequences. ARNDT – who until 2005 had spaces in four countries but now has only one in Berlin – estimates that “a gallery would need a turnover of about $100m a year to have five international spaces outside its HQ.” Furthermore, these galleries will have to deal with a horde of extra managerial aspects such as understanding the different tax and legal laws related to the dealing of art in each country they set up shop in.

Bharti Kher, 'Solarum Series I', 2007 / 2010, fibreglass, metal, 274 x 335 x 304 cm. This was one of the works presented at Art Basel Miami Beach by "mega-gallery" Hauser & Wirth. Image taken from artbaselmiamibeach-online.com.

Bharti Kher, 'Solarum Series I', 2007 / 2010, fibreglass, metal, 274 x 335 x 304 cm. This was one of the works presented at Art Basel Miami Beach by "mega-gallery" Hauser & Wirth. Image taken from artbaselmiamibeach-online.com.

Lacking a spare $100m, how else can a gallery tweak its game plan? Some dealers highlight the importance of maintaining relationships and trust between artist and gallery, gallery and buyer. In the article, Brussel-based gallery Xavier Hufkens talks about the importance of face-to-face contact: “It’s about having one space, one person to talk to, one person a collector or artist can meet with – that’s the only way you can really follow what happens to your work.”

MS/KN

Related Topics: business of art, market watch – galleriesglobalisation, trends – globalisation of art

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