Not every dealer thinks of this reintroduction as a conscious strategy. Dominique Lévy, founder of Lévy Gorvy and former Christie’s department head (Francois Pinault recruited her in 1999 to run its newly launched private sales division), said she had long championed artists who had worked during the American ascension—the rise of the
, a period she places at roughly 1955 to 1985—in Europe and Asia and Latin America, far from New York and the center of the art market. She ticked off some of the highlights from her list: German sculptor
; Japanese action painter
, the German-born transplant to Venezuela.
“Bringing these artists to surface was a natural course of events,” Lévy said. “It was not part of any strategic thinking. It was encounters with artists I was passionate about and wanted to bring to America.” Nevertheless, resurfacing them is still a process of serious outreach and investment. Since Lévy Gorvy mounted its first show on Gego in New York in the fall of 2015, her work has appeared in shows at MoMA and the Art Institute of Chicago
. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
acquired one of her largest works, Reticulárea, Columna 71/9
(1971), one of only 10 of that size and quality in existence. After that sale, for a price well over her auction record, 8 of those 10 are now held in public collections, and the gallery is actively engaged in placing at least one of the remaining two with a major international museum. Twenty-three of her wire sculptures will appear as part of a show of Latin American art at the Fondation Cartier
in Paris, opening on October 14th.
The one dealer who seemed comfortable confirming the tactical elements behind such idealism was a veteran of the auction world, Daniella Luxembourg, previously a director at Sotheby’s and a partner in Phillips, de Pury, & Luxembourg, and now co-owner of Luxembourg & Dayan with Amalia Dayan, the granddaughter of the Israeli general Moshe Dayan.
Since 2012, the two have worked to revive the careers of two tragically short-lived Italian artists:
, who died at 32 and 36, respectively. The campaign has been a notable success. Just weeks after Pascali’s work Tail of a Dolphin
(1966) appeared in a group show at their London gallery, the work set the artist’s record at Christie’s London sale, when it sold for $3.4 million. And Braid
, a 1969 work by Gnoli, which first appeared in their 2012 show for the artist, sold last June at Art Basel for $14 million. These prices helped cement the reputations of the previously overlooked artists, and strongly contributed to their current ascendence.
“The more money is in contemporary art,” Luxembourg said, calling out the core preoccupation of the art market, “the more money shapes our unconscious. You might say you have a muscle against it, but you don’t.” In her estimation, no one is immune from the spell of money, not museum directors, art historians, or critics. “The power of the money is very strong,” she said, “hence very few galleries do this, because it means investment, it means research. It means a certain passion for historical material. And that is rare. However, we see it does exist.”