Toward the end of the 20th Century, Gagosian Gallery on 24th Street in Chelsea became the symbol of the art business. It spans half of 24th Street between Tenth and Eleventh Avenue. The line to get into the gallery would span the whole block and veer off around the corner. Security is guarding and protecting some of the most expensive collections. This type of entourage greatly increased the public’s perception of the value of the modern art displayed inside.
However, to the Chelsea art world, the most interesting aspect of it all was to observe the installation of each new exhibition. Employees and owners of other galleries within the Chelsea Art District would always stop by to observe how it was done in Gagosian Gallery – for it seemed only they could evaluate the fervor of the art business. For example, when Serra’s sculptures had to be brought into the gallery through special gates using a forklift for each exhibition, inside walls would be disassembled and organized together accordingly, special lights would be be mounted. The space inside was seamlessly transformed to fit each exhibition, no matter how difficult and troublesome the transformation would have to be. Few museums in the city could afford such transformations and extravagancies!
During the installation one could even see the legends of modern and contemporary art themselves. For example, we were all pleasantly surprised when, right there inside the gallery, his helpers were imitating Damien Hirst’s art, with Hirst in the background giving instruction. Jeff Koons, in an interview, would reveal how he, one day, unexpectedly proclaimed that he, for a long time, has not touched anything with his hands – he would only exercise his creative mind, while his army of helpers and students would actually sculpt his ideas. It was into these interesting artists and their unique talents that Larry Gagosian invested his money.
Soon after Gagosian opened his second gallery in Chelsea, along with his gallery on Madison Avenue, now totaling five! Many in the art business were overcome with envy. Today, Larry Gagosian boasts a world-wide chain of more than 16 galleries, located in key cultural cities such as New York, London, Paris, Geneva, Athens, Rome, Hong-Kong, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Each gallery rotates the timeless classics of Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, Willem DeKooning, Cy Twombly, Richard Serra, Alberto Giacometti, Jean-Michel Basquiat, etc.; even the lesser-known artists displayed there, judging by it all, are fast on their way to stardom.
Aside from the gallery business, Larry Gagosian produces films and publishes books. In the fall of 2014 he opened a restaurant not too far from his gallery on Madison Avenue. Gagosian set several professional records – for example, in 1988, on the request of a client, he purchased Jasper John’s famous painting, ‘False Start’ for a then-record $17 million dollars. At the time it was the most amount of money paid for the work of a living artist. In 2008 he beat his own record by purchasing Jeff Koon’s ‘Hanging Heart’ for $23.5 million dollars at the Sotheby’s art auction. Also in his head-spinning multi-million dollars art collection are classics, ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch, and the collection of Pop Art inherited from Ileana Sonnabend, the wife and business partner of Leo Castelli.
The word is that there is not one painting exist which Gagosian cannot buy. However, I witnessed at one of Sotheby’s auctions, after a tense bidding war, one painting was bought by another art dealer for over $100 million dollars, this was a very intense competition. But, of course, this happens sometimes! How many people can participate in such expensive games? Not too many.
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