That London has cemented itself as a center for contemporary art to rival New York over the past decade, is a truism often repeated and rarely challenged. Blue-chip American galleries David Zwirner
, Michael Werner
, and Marian Goodman
invaded Britain’s capital in 2012, solidifying the city’s equal art-world importance in the contemporary realm as it has long held for Old Masters. Gagosian
’s addition, next week, of a third exhibition space to its existing flagship on Britannia St and “shop window” in Mayfair suggests that the trend is set to continue. It’s no accident, either, that Gagosian—as well as Patrick Seguin, who opens a second space in Mayfair, and Tornabuoni Art, which will debut in London—has scheduled the opening of that new gallery to coincide with the commencement of this year’s Frieze Art Fair.
Frieze remains the catalyst for, and symbol of, London’s resurgence as a competitor to New York, the city that has since the Second World War reigned as art’s global hub. Indeed, in the new model for the sale of contemporary (and now pre-contemporary, by way of Frieze Masters) art pioneered and perfected by Frieze, we can see the blueprint for London’s anticipated pre-eminence. For if London is to achieve a status comparable to that of New York post-1950, or indeed Paris at the turn of the previous century, then it will do so by different means.
New York thrived because of the extraordinary concentration of artists, critics, and dealers in its 20 square miles, allied to a wealthy, educated, and open-minded new class of collectors. Its galleries’ businesses were thus founded upon—though not of course limited to—the sale of art made in New York to collectors who lived in New York. Whereas in New York, artists and collectors (downtown and uptown) existed side-by-side, London often operates as a conduit for the sale of art by international artists, through international dealers, to an international clientele. This isn’t to downplay the importance either of local artists or local collectors, only to note the changing circumstances of a more globalized, networked world.