The Most Important Art World Stories You May Have Missed This Summer
Welcome back, artworlder. How was your summer? Well, while you were cavorting on Hydra, in the Hamptons, or elsewhere, the art industry kept churning. People changed jobs, galleries made moves, fairs were launched, and auction houses landed some surprising consignments. In sum, the old myth about the art world going on hiatus in the summer is as outdated as the assumption that you can get works at a major discount on the last day of a fair. As summering artists, curators, collectors, dealers, and others return to their respective art capitals, a familiar but ever-so-slightly different landscape awaits. To help with the adjustment, here’s a crash course through the most important changes and developments in the art world you may have missed over the summer.
Some galleries closed
Cheim & Read’s façade. Courtesy of Cheim & Read.
Perhaps most significantly for the New York art world, Chelsea standby Cheim & Read announced that it would close its showroom on West 25th Street at the end of the year. Thereafter, the business will shift to a space uptown to focus on secondary market sales and special projects, while still mounting some small-scale installations and participating in fairs. The founders of the gallery, John Cheim and Howard Read, described its next phase as a “private practice.”
Meanwhile, a little farther afield, former Chelsea gallerist Jeff Bailey announced that he will close his gallery, which had relocated upstate to Hudson, New York, in 2014, on October 28th. And across the pond, Berlin’s Arratia Beer Gallery shuttered at the end of August after a 12-year run.
Many more opened, expanded, and moved
Charles Moffett in his gallery, 2018. Courtesy of Charles Moffett, New York.
Jeffrey Deitch finally gave concrete details about his new gallery in Hollywood, which will mark his return to L.A. after a controversial turn at the helm of the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. The 15,000-square-foot space will launch in late September with an Ai Weiwei exhibition. Another heavyweight gallery, Culver City’s Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, announced it will expand this fall with a downtown location in an 11,000-square-foot former tire factory.
In New York, former Sotheby’s specialist Charles Moffett struck out on his own and opened an eponymous gallery in Chinatown. “I kept having this itch for the primary market, working directly with artists and doing shows,” he told Artsy.
Meanwhile, plenty of existing galleries jockeyed for positioning, taking advantage of the slower summer months to build out new spaces or move to more prominent real estate. In Chelsea, Miles McEnery Gallery announced it will expand to West 21st Street, while Hollis Taggart will relocate from the seventh floor of 521 West 26th Street to the first. Meanwhile, Burning in Water, which operates out of a sliver of a space on 10th Avenue, will add two annexes in the new High Line Nine building around the corner on West 27th Street.
And while others seek out storefronts and larger spaces, Lower East Side stalwart Nicelle Beauchene Gallery revealed that it will add a satellite space in an apartment on the third floor of a residential building in the neighborhood.
“It’s an apartment, so it will have furniture,” Beauchene told ARTnews. “It will have a couch and a bed. The idea is to push it so that it’s a different kind of space, so artists have to consider a domestic domain and how that might operate.”
Lastly, Sean Horton, one of the first dealers to move to the Lower East Side in the 2000s, will open a new space in Dallas this month.
Big galleries attracted big names
The world’s biggest galleries went on hiring sprees over the summer, even luring away some senior staffers from museums and auction houses. For instance, Eric Shiner, who joined Sotheby’s two years ago after a long stint leading the Andy Warhol Museum, was hired by White Cube to become the artistic director of the British gallery’s New York outpost. White Cube also snapped up Toby Kamps, the director and chief curator of the Blaffer Museum at the University of Houston, to be its director of external projects.
Meanwhile, Charles Saumarez Smith, the secretary and chief executive of London’s Royal Academy of Arts for the past 11 years, stepped down to join Blain | Southern as the London and Berlin gallery’s senior director. Hauser & Wirth also scored a high-profile hire, adding Christie’s veteran Liberté Nuti to its secondary market team. Another Christie’s staffer, Han-I Wang, the auction house’s former vice president and contemporary art specialist in Hong Kong, joined Gagosian as a senior director. And Pace Gallery took advantage of Cheim & Read’s downscaling (see above) to hire one of its partners, Adam Sheffer, as vice president.
New fairs entered the fray, and one exited
The Sands Expo and Convention Centre at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore will host the inaugural ART SG fair in November 2019. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
In July, Art Basel’s parent company, the MCH Group, revealed plans to launch an art fair in Singapore in November 2019. A partnership with Sandy Angus and Tim Etchells—who helped launched Art HK, the fair that was eventually purchased by Art Basel and rebranded as Art Basel in Hong Kong—the new Singapore fair will be called ART SG. It will bring some 80 galleries to the Sands Expo and Convention Center. And Frieze’s plan to launch a fair in Los Angeles next year gained more momentum when collector Dean Valentine announced he’s starting a satellite fair—a 35-gallery affair dubbed Felix LA—to run concurrently.
New York City’s spring art fair marathon, meanwhile, got a little smaller when the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) announced that it would not hold its usual Armory Week fair in 2019. “I’ve always kind of felt like New York was a city where you don’t even need an art fair, because it basically is an art fair all year round,” Heather Hubbs, NADA’s executive director, told Artsy.
Auction houses lined up unusual lots
Xu Zhen, XUZHEN SUPERMARKET, 2016. Courtesy of XU ZHEN.
Portrait of Edmond de Belamy, 2018. Generative Adversarial Network print published by Obvious Art, Paris. © Obvious. Courtesy of Christie’s.
Sure, the fall sales have plenty of blockbuster firepower, but they also include their share of oddball lots and sales. Perhaps most intriguingly, Sotheby’s is going to sell the collection of late comedian Robin Williams and his widow Martha Garces Williams, which includes sculptures by Deborah Butterfield and Niki de Saint Phalle, as well as pieces by street artists Banksy, Invader, and Shepard Fairey.
The two big auction houses also announced plans to test the markets for Conceptual and computer-made work. On September 30th, Sotheby’s Hong Kong will offerXuzhen Supermarket (2007/2017), a large-scale conceptual art piece by Xu Zhen that consists of a fully-stocked supermarket—complete with a functioning cash register—in which every package on the shelves is empty. And in late October, Christie’s will sell its first work created by artificial intelligence, an expressionistic portrait executed by an algorithm developed by the French art collective Obvious.
MoMA lost two top curators
Klaus Biesenbach. Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for The New School.
In the span of 24 hours, Klaus Biesenbach was revealed to be the next leader of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and Laura Hoptman was tapped to take the helm of New York’s Drawing Center, swiftly vacating two of the most high-profile curatorial positions at the Museum of Modern Art. As Biesenbach heads west, MoMA will be headhunting for a new chief curator at large and a new director for its Queens outpost MoMA PS1—roles Artsy feels should be divided among two new hires. And Hoptman’s departure leaves a highly coveted curatorial vacancy in MoMA’s venerable department of painting and sculpture.
British museums purchased two paintings by women
Artemisia Gentileschi, Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, about 1615–17. © The National Gallery, London. Courtesy of The National Gallery, London.
Leonora Carrington, Portrait of Max Ernst, circa 1939. © The Estate of Leonora Carrington, DACS, 2018. Courtesy of the National Galleries of Scotland.
In July, the National Gallery in London added a work by a female artist to its permanent collection for the first time in 27 years when it acquired Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria (ca. 1615–17) for £3.6 million ($4.6 million). Shortly thereafter, the National Galleries of Scotland acquired their first work by the Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington, a striking portrait of Max Ernst, for £560,000 ($738,000). Two paintings hardly constitute a sea change in acquisitions policies, but it’s a start. In October, another remarkable Gentileschi will hit the auction block in Vienna; perhaps another U.K. institution will step up to the mark.