Art Market

The Most Important Young Galleries in the World

Nate Freeman
Jun 10, 2019 5:20PM

In this decade of recovery from a recession, the global art market has found a way to adapt and is now a juggernaut with $67.4 billion in annual sales. While the bulk of that figure changes hands at auction houses, mega-galleries, and through private deals, integral to the market’s future success are new galleries—the ones braving a demanding fair circuit and fickle collector base to strike out on their own.

With input from collectors, dealers, and fair directors, I rounded up these emerging galleries from three distinct regions: The Americas; Europe and Africa; and Asia and the Middle East. There is some range here—some are less than a year old or have just started to show at small satellite fairs; others have been around for a decade and have shown at one of the three Art Basel fairs—but all of these outfits share similar qualities. They have been started by former directors at larger shops; a trader at Goldman Sachs; critics who pivoted from reviewing shows to making them; and artists who converted studios to white cubes. These galleries bottle the energy of their distinct scenes and have founders ambitious enough to take their programs onto the global circuit.

The Americas

Portrait of Mariane Ibrahim by Philip Newton. Courtesy of Mariane Ibrahim Gallery.


Founded in 2012 in Seattle by Mariane Ibrahim.

Data Point: Won the inaugural Presents Booth Prize at the 2017 Armory Show for a solo presentation of German-Ghanaian artist Zohra Opoku.

Mariane Ibrahim was raised in Somalia, and she’s used her connection to the continent to strengthen relationships with a crew of African artists who might not have received much exposure in the United States. While she’s brought Mariane Ibrahim Gallery to a number of fairs around the world—including ZONAMACO, Untitled San Francisco, and Frieze New York—she’s been based in Seattle, a city not particularly known for its African art scene. But earlier this year, Ibrahim announced she’d be making a move to Chicago, allowing her to insert herself into the city’s circuit of galleries.

Installation view of Mariane Ibrahim Gallery’s booth featuring Florine Démosthène at The Armory Show, 2019. Courtesy of Mariane Ibrahim Gallery.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

The mission of Mariane Ibrahim Gallery is to gather a sustainable community of the best artists and audiences, and together, to fulfill creative ambitions of highest standards and longevity.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

To always be pushing boundaries, to never wait for validation, but instead, to reflect on global diversity and inclusion issues through art, vision, and contemplation.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

We chose Chicago for the opening of our new gallery in September. Chicago’s excellence, art culture, and creative community will have a great impact on the gallery.

Commonwealth and Council

Clockwise from left: Installation view of Alice Könitz, Los Angeles Museum of Art Display System #7, 2018. Photo by Ruben Diaz. Portrait of Young Chung, founder and co-owner, and Kibum Kim, co-owner. Photo by David Alekhuogie. Installation view of Yukako Ando, Open Fence, 2019. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Ruben Diaz. All courtesy of Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles.


Founded in 2010 in Los Angeles by Young Chung.

Data Point: Gala Porras-Kim, who has gone on to show her work at the Hammer Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art, had a residency at the Koreatown space in 2010 when she was 26.

Gallery scenes have sprouted up in several parts of Los Angeles. Young Chung started Commonwealth and Council in his apartment in Koreatown—not a gallery hub exactly, but the place where he grew up. Eventually, the gallery moved to a proper space, on 7th Street in K-Town, but the name honors the original location, which sat at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Council Street.

What is the gallery’s mission?

Commonwealth and Council is committed to celebrating our manifold identities and experiences through the shared dialogue of art—championing practices by women, queer [people], people of color, and our ally artists to build counter-histories.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

Los Angeles is a sprawling patchwork city, which requires very deliberate effort from the art viewer to go visit galleries and see shows. We do not get the kind of passerby foot traffic that spaces in other more dense art capitals may get. This rhythm and texture of Los Angeles is integral to the DNA of the city’s art scene, with its intrepid spirit and slower engagement. Our history and program reflects this.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

We believe our community of artists will continue to expand beyond Los Angeles and that their projects may reach beyond the art world.

Proyectos Ultravioleta

From left: Exterior of Proyectos Ultravioleta, photo by Margo Porres; portrait of Stefan Benchoam by Alan Benchoam. Both courtesy of Proyectos Ultravioleta, Guatemala City.

Founded in 2009 in Guatemala City by Stefan Benchoam.

Data Point: The dealer makes up for his relatively remote location by doing multiple fairs per year, including Frieze New York and Liste in Basel.

In 2012, Guatemala City had no contemporary art museum to support young artists in Central America. Enter Stefan Benchoam, the founder of Proyectos Ultravioleta, and Jessica Kaire, a Guatemalan artist, who co-founded the city’s Nuevo Museo to fill that void. NuMu, as it’s known locally, is 8 feet tall, 6 feet wide, and shaped like an egg, because it used to be a shop where a guy sold eggs. Four people can stand in it at a time. Still, it’s had an outsized impact on the city, and in 2017, a replica of it was built at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

Installation view of Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, “El guardian del bosque (The Guardian of the Forrest)” at Proyectos Ultravioleta, 2018. Curated by Magali Arriola and co-presented by KADIST. Photo by Margo Porres. Courtesy of the artist, KADIST, and Proyectos Ultravioleta, Guatemala City.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

To foster experimentation in the arts through ongoing collaborations with artists, practitioners, thinkers, and other galleries that engage with the natural, social, political, historical, and economic circumstances of Guatemala, while maintaining an international conversation.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

Although Guatemala has a very rich and effervescent cultural scene and art history, there has been a major void regarding structural support from the government or the private sector towards art and culture, with only a handful of contemporary art collectors at most.

Yet we have a fascinating millenary history that starts with the Mayan civilization, was severely aggravated through the Spanish Colony, and further exacerbated through the U.S.–led coup d’état of 1954, which resulted in a Civil War that took the lives of over 200,000 Guatemalans through murders and forced disappearances.

We find that our obligation and biggest challenge is to create a space for artists and thinkers to engage our context through their practices, while simultaneously generating an economy to help support and sustain their voices and livelihoods in the long term.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

As our artists grow and continue to push their practices and attain the international recognition that they rightly deserve, we intend to continue to be by their side, to be best able to support them and mature together.

Clockwise from left: The facade of Lulu; portrait of Chris Sharp and Martin Soto Climent; installation view of Yuji Agematsu, “Mexico City: April 1 to 13, 2019,” at Lulu, 2019, photo by Ramiro Chaves, courtesy of the artist and Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York.

Founded in 2013 in Mexico City by Martin Soto Climent and Chris Sharp.

Data Point: Lulu will show in the inaugural edition of June in Basel, a new Art Basel satellite fair near the Messeplatz that features up-and-coming galleries from around the world.

Before it expanded in 2016, Lulu had just 100 square feet of space, but that didn’t stop it from hosting a biennial called “The Lulennial,” featuring artists Gabriel Orozco, Darren Bader, Martin Soto Climent, and Yoko Ono.

Installation view of Ambera Wellmann, “In medias res” at Lulu, Mexico City, 2019. Courtesy of the artist, Lulu, Mexico City, and Kraupa­Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin. Photo by Ramiro Chaves.

What is the gallery’s mission?

Less a gallery than a hybrid project space—which is a curatorial platform with a self-sustaining commercial structure—Lulu is a monster which seeks to present both emerging and established artists who have had little or no exposure in Mexico and who, perhaps more importantly, think plastically.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

Getting people to come see the shows IRL and accessing local collectors.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

I hope that we can become better at what we do, which is to say, more precise and professional. Beyond our recently inaugurated collaboration La Maison de Rendez-Vous in Brussels, we have no intention of expanding.

Queer Thoughts

Clockwise from left: Portrait of Miguel Bendaña and Sam Lipp, founders and directors of Queer Thoughts, New York; Queer Thoughts exterior; installation view of Diamond Stingily, “Death,” 2019 at Queer Thoughts, New York. All courtesy of Queer Thoughts, New York.

Founded in 2012 in New York by Luis Miguel Bendaña and Sam Lipp.

Data Point: The one-time apartment gallery was an early supporter of Diamond Stingily, Donna Huanca, and Darja Bajagić.

At first, the artists Luis Miguel Bendaña and Sam Lipp had an approach to starting a gallery that was theoretical. Before there was a permanent space in New York, they held itinerant exhibitions in various places in Nicaragua, including at a waterfall in the mountains of Boaco. They participated in smaller fairs like Material in Mexico City and L.A.’s Paramount Ranch. But most of all, they were supporting artists they believed in when no one else would give them a platform—even if that platform was a Nicaraguan waterfall. Now, many of the artists in their stable have been co-signed by major European galleries, or shown in the Whitney Biennial—among them Diamond Stingily, Donna Huanca, Puppies Puppies, Martine Syms, and Darja Bajagić.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

Queer Thoughts promotes a je ne sais quoi agenda.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

To develop an independent program.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

We will have a very expensive espresso machine.

From left: portrait of Leopol Mones; installation view of Ana Prata, “Sorte,” at Galería Isla Flotante, 2019. Both courtesy of Galería Isla Flotante.

Founded in 2014 in Buenos Aires by Leopol Jose Maria Mones Cazon.

Data Point: The gallery were included in a special sector at Frieze New York in 2019 curated by Patrick Charpenel and Susanna V. Temkin of El Museo del Barrio.

The young gallery Isla Flotante does not shy away from confronting Argentina’s problematic political realities. Opened by Leopol Jose Maria Mones Cazon in the La Boca neighborhood in 2014, the artists represented by the space are all young and make activist art. “We’re fond of political issues in Isla Flotante because we believe in politics as the strongest tool to bring equality and justice to our environment,” Cazon said in a video made by Art Basel on the occasion of the gallery’s inclusion in its Miami Beach fair in 2017—the gallery’s first U.S. fair.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

We are a self-managed space, not as a last resource, but as a vindication of being an artist today.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

To still have fun while growing and making a living out of the project, and to keep the enthusiasm of running a business in such a turbulent context.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

Franchising the business in beautiful cities and little towns we love.

Ortuzar Projects

From left: portrait of Ales Ortuzar; installation view of “Michel Parmentier: Paintings and Works on Paper,” Ortuzar Projects, New York, 2018. Both courtesy of Ortuzar Projects.

Founded in 2018 in New York by Ales Ortuzar.

Data Point: The gallery’s inaugural show of works by Michel Parmentier completely sold out.

Over the past few years, Chelsea and Lower East Side galleries have made the move to Tribeca, turning the Lower Manhattan neighborhood into a veritable gallery hub. Founded in early 2018 on White Street, Ortuzar Projects was the brainchild of former David Zwirner director Ales Ortuzar, who left to start a by-appointment space and advisory firm in 2015 and then took the plunge with a 3,000-square-foot white cube. In addition to programming at the gallery, Ortuzar Projects had a booth at the Independent fair in March, and found a buyer for Gilles Aillaud’s Rhinoceros (1972). At $380,000, it was one of the priciest works sold during the fair’s run.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

Ortuzar Projects is dedicated to promoting international artists that have played critical roles in the 20th- and 21st-century art-historical canon but have not received recent exposure in New York.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

There’s a belief in the art world that bigger is better, but we have deliberately worked against that idea, remaining focused on scholarship and excellence. We want to add value and expand the conversation, doing fewer shows a year, but making sure they contribute new ideas and are of the highest caliber.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

The biggest and most welcome surprise has been to discover that the gallery quickly found its audience—critically, curatorially, and commercially. This model has room to expand in multiple directions, and we plan to continue Ortuzar Projects beyond its original life cycle. The one thing that will remain steadfast is a commitment to the type of artists we show: artists who have had outsize influence on other artists, and whose work feels fresh and vital, whether it was made 50 years ago or yesterday.

Clockwise from left: Installation view of Jenny Gagalka, “racecar,” at Good Weather at Monaco, 2018; portrait of Haynes Riley; portrait of Erin Riley. All courtesy of Good Weather.

Founded in 2011 in Little Rock, Arkansas, by Haynes Riley.

Data Point: Participating in Liste for the first time this year.

Little Rock, Arkansas, doesn’t evoke visions of the glamorous international contemporary art market, but since opening Good Weather, founder Haynes Riley has managed to take the white cube he built in his parents’ garage on the road. He’s been showing at expos such as The Sunday Fair in London, Material in Mexico City, and NADA in Miami Beach. This week, Riley—who gets help from his siblings Zach, Erin, and Kelsey—has set up show at Liste in Basel, perhaps the world’s primo young art fair. But that doesn’t mean he’s turning his back on the local collector base. After all, Arkansas is home to Crystal Bridges, Alice Walton’s expansive museum complex in Bentonville.

What is the gallery’s mission?

The gallery was founded in order to initiate a contemporary art discourse in Arkansas.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your region?

The biggest challenges are connecting with: 1) a collector base locally that understands and supports our mission; and 2) a supportive network of writers and critics that cover the exhibitions. We have recently seen the budding stages of this ecosystem, and are hopeful for that to grow.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

The commercial aspects of the gallery, seeded through an artist-run model the first five years, have grown significantly in the past three years. Our vision is to have a separate nonprofit entity (South Center Institute) operate in tandem with the commercial gallery. This building will house Good Weather’s exhibitions and focus on public programming and developing community-centered resources, including a research library, study table, and tea room.

Asia and the Middle East

Portrait of Stephen Cheng courtesy of Empty Gallery.

Founded in 2015 in Hong Kong by Stephen Cheng.

Data Point: The experimental gallery space started applying its installation eccentricities to fair booths when participating in The Armory Show in 2018.

The usual model for galleries is to build out a white cube, and that’s where the art goes. But Stephen Cheng of Empty Gallery in Hong Kong thought: What about a black cube? And so his 3,000-square-foot space in a high rise on the far side of the island is often lit as dark as a haunted house. But that doesn’t stop the shows from becoming some of the most-talked-about things on view during Art Basel in Hong Kong. The gallery also throws one of the fair’s most unforgettable parties.

Installation view of Cici Wu, Subtitle 01 (Justice and Hope), 2019, in “Unfinished Return” at Empty Gallery, 2019. Photo by Michael Yu. Courtesy of Empty Gallery.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

Art is a transmission, not a transaction.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

The lack of an existing culture of engaging with contemporary art, which is great in a way because there is the opportunity for all of us involved in the arts to build it. But this takes a long time and it is a challenge, especially when there has been such a strong market for art in Hong Kong that has attracted blue-chip, multinational galleries to the city.

It can be hard to find a balance, and sometimes you wonder if art is being understood primarily as a luxury good. The lack of a critical youth to resist and challenge everything means that, so far, the story here is more of consumption rather than of a deeper, rooted, radical activity.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

I would like to open another space. I imagine something informal. Our first few years have really been about finding a groove and building a name for ourselves. I think there is room to expand the platform, not so much geographically, but in terms of how to open it up further.

Nova Contemporary

From left: portrait of Sutima Sucharitakul; installation view of Jedsada Tangtrakulwong, “The Uncertain,” at Nova Contemporary, 2019. Courtesy of Nova Contemporary.

Founded in 2016 in Bangkok by Sutima Sucharitakul.

Data Point: Turned a former storage space in an apartment into one of Bangkok’s most vibrant spaces.

By the time she decided to open a gallery in her native Bangkok, Sutima Sucharitakul was 27, and had spent most of the previous decade studying Asian art in London and New York. Her interest in Southeast Asia was rekindled by working as a curatorial associate on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s groundbreaking show “Lost Kingdoms: Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia, Fifth to Eighth Century.” By the time she opened Nova Contemporary, the programming would be less 5th century and way more contemporary. Her shows have thrust some of the world’s most celebrated artists into the nascent Bangkok scene. She’s shown work by Rachel Rose, Luc Tuymans, and Lawrence Weiner.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

To encourage exchange and the cross-pollination between artistic disciplines, the gallery focuses on multi-generational, local, and international artists.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

The biggest challenge of running an art gallery in Bangkok is that there are not enough collectors. It is very difficult when the number of contemporary art galleries is limited and without recognition from a respected institution. There are many good artists in our country, but with limited museums to showcase their work. Some topics and exhibitions are filtered to be suitable for the local audience due to our sensitive culture and law.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

I would like to show more Western art in Thailand and bring Southeast Asian art to the international art scene. This is an emerging market with respect to the art world, but many institutions and collectors are paying closer attention to our region.

Experimenter Gallery

Portrait of Prateek and Priyanka Raja courtesy of Experimenter.

Founded in 2009 in Kolkata by Prateek Raja and Priyanka Raja.

Data Point: Was accepted into Frieze London in 2010, one year after opening.

Married couple Prateek and Priyanka Raja both studied contemporary Asian art at Sotheby’s, and they opened Experimenter Gallery in Kolkata, hoping to provide local support for Indian artists. Two years after the gallery opened, the duo started the Experimenter Curators’ Hub, which has become one of Asia’s most important curatorial symposia. Last year’s participants included documenta 14’s director Adam Szymczyk and its curator at large, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung.

Installation view of Julien Segard, “A Second Coming,” at Experimenter, 2019. Courtesy of Experimenter.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

Focused, strong, and active programming that stands for the contemporary moment, truly representative and reflective of the political, social, and cultural fabric of the times we live in.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

Every art gallery needs to build a particular audience that in turn defines its own impact in the region and beyond. It is crucial that an adaptable, agile, and nuanced program is sustained.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

To be able to continue to do what we do as Experimenter, we see ourselves straddling several spheres simultaneously and collaboratively working with other relevant, key enablers in related fields. We envision the structural framework of the art world undergoing substantial fundamental changes on all fronts where partnerships across disciplines will be intertwined in a complex network of relationships opening up uncharted new frontiers.


From left: portrait of Mathieu Borysevicz; installation view of Zheng Haozhong, “TAKI,” at Bank, 2019. Both courtesy of Bank.

Founded in 2013 in Shanghai by Mathieu Borysevicz.

Data Point: The gallery was started as a commercial endeavor within MABSOCIETY, a curatorial enterprise.

The Shanghai-based gallery Bank has always been about subverting the central notions of the art market. It was housed in an actual bank, but showed daring, edgy contemporary artists—not the ones who would necessarily make bank. But after nearly three years in the Bank Union Building on the Bund, the People’s Republic evicted founder Mathieu Borysevicz, claiming he was violating a new policy that bans operating a private company on government-owned property. Borysevicz relocated and has given early solo shows to Hito Steyrel, Austin Lee, and Tianzhuo Chen.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

To get our kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

There are many challenges to living in Shanghai, never mind running a business here. I think all around the world, galleries are in the business of art education, but in China, this is further confounded by cultural differences, the country’s tumultuous history, and its current socio-political reality. Contemporary art is seen as an “imported” Western form, and connecting it to our visitors and clients’ broader social condition is one of our biggest challenges.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

We will be opening franchises in Doha, Brussels, Los Angeles, and Chiang Mai; adding a medley of global blue-chip artists to our roster as we territorialize the planet.

Portrait of Enrico Polato. Courtesy of Capsule Shanghai.

Founded in 2016 in Shanghai by Enrico Polato.

Data Point: Represents mostly emerging Chinese artists, but at Frieze New York in May, it showed cut-outs by the Brooklyn-based artist Sarah Faux.

The French Concession in Shanghai is a gorgeous, tree-lined neighborhood redolent of the city’s old Gallic overseers and teeming with charming coffee shops and bars, some hidden from plain sight. Among those secret little storefronts is Capsule Shanghai, a gallery opened by longtime Shanghai art-world denizen Enrico Polato in 2016. He’s the lodestar for the burgeoning gallery neighborhood, one that is scrappier than the classic art district on the Bund. He’s participated in fairs in Asia, and branched out this year by showing at Frieze New York.

Installation view of Leelee Chan, “Core Sample,” at Capsule Shanghai, 2019. Courtesy of Capsule Shanghai.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

Discover and promote domestic and international artists in China who push boundaries for contemporary art of their time.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

Starting a gallery from scratch with a brand-new program has been a big risk to take. China has its own specificity—everything moves at a faster pace of change, and the notion of collecting in support to artists and galleries is relatively new compared to other regions. The ecosystem is also less developed. A new gallery needs to make a bigger effort to gain validation from the public, and I had to fast-forward the process by running a marathon-like number of shows last year, consolidating the partnership with my artists, and entering an international platform through participation in art fairs.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

I started with a long-term vision, and I hope that the core of my program will still be consistent with what it is now, and my artists will still be growing together with the gallery and becoming important players in a bigger scenario. I also hope to have a second branch or an additional project space abroad.

Portrait of Lorraine and Edouard Malingue. Courtesy of Edouard Malingue Gallery.

Founded in 2010 in Hong Kong by Edouard Malingue and Lorraine Kiang Malingue.

Data point: Gallery artist Wong Ping currently has a show up at the Kunsthalle Basel, marking his first full institutional exhibition.

Unlike many contemporary art galleries, Edouard Malingue Gallery started out as Hong Kong’s first commercial space for Impressionist and modern art, and then spent years building out a roster of artists pulling it in a completely new direction. It’s evolved a lot from opening with 40 works by Pablo Picasso to having one of the region’s more robust contemporary programs. It now represents artists such as Samson Young, who wowed at the West Bund Art & Design fair in November 2018 with a show-stopping exhibition at the gallery’s Mainland annex.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

Having a program of distinctive, engaging, and conceptually strong artists from Asia and abroad, and supporting impactful content that reflects the world we are in.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

We often face the limitation of space in Hong Kong. We try to take advantage of this shortcoming by doing projects beyond the gallery and in our Shanghai space.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

Our artists have grown and developed their careers rapidly in the last nine years, getting museum solo and group shows, and participating in biennials. They will continue to do so and be seen internationally even more frequently.

From left: portrait of Simon Wang; installation view of Nancy Lupo, “No Country for Old Men,” at Antenna Space, 2018. Both courtesy of Antenna Space.

Founded in 2013 in Shanghai by Simon Wang.

Data Point: Has participated in Art Basel in Basel since 2017.

Simon Wang initially wanted to find a space where he could simply support local artists and give them a place to show new works. With the help of Shanghai’s influential collecting couple Kelly Ying and David Chau—the co-founders of the city’s ART021 fair—he got a space in M50, a massive former textile mill that has been a burgeoning arts district for over a decade. His artist roster ranges from Allison Katz and Nancy Lupo to Dora Budor—who has a solo show at Kunsthalle Basel to coincide with this week’s fair.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

Antenna was opened to realize and materialize artists’ projects and thoughts from their ideas.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

To re-contextualize, really.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

Social media, too much noise, but good art will always stay.

Clockwise from left: Installation view of Amin Akbari, “Unsafe Zone/Domestic Production” at Electric Room, 2018; portrait of Hormoz Hemmatian; installation view of “A Camp” at Dastan Gallery, 2017. All Courtesy of Dastan Gallery.

Founded in 2012 in Tehran by Hormoz Hematian.

Data Point: At a time when Iran’s galleries are struggling to survive, Dastan Gallery showed at Frieze New York last month.

It is not an easy time to have a gallery in Iran. Given the sanctions the U.S. has imposed on the country, it has been difficult for galleries such as Dastan Gallery to do business with collectors domestically. The lack of funds makes it difficult for any Iranian gallery to participate in art fairs, but in 2018, Dastan Gallery was the only representative from Iran at the Art Dubai fair. Despite the march toward recession, founder Hormoz Hematian is soldiering on, and ensuring that the Iranian artists he represents will still get the attention they deserve from global collectors.

Installation view of Shokoofeh Khoramroodi & Taba Fajrak , “Tales of Interdisciplinia: The Curious Company of a Very Long Tail,” at Dastan Gallery, 2019. Courtesy of Dastan Gallery.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

Dastan features an extensive and multi-dimensional program, covering the full spectrum of Iranian contemporary and modern art.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

The main challenge we are facing as a gallery based in Tehran is a general lack of infrastructure regarding the production, exhibition, and acquisition of contemporary art. With the country’s current socio-political climate, both domestically and internationally, the galleries are also affected. These challenges present unique opportunities for us to take part in building a new future.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

We will move away from today’s constant challenge of overcoming obstacles and laying foundations and get to realize the full capabilities of the artistic practices and the Iranian art scene. Through the technological breakthroughs like blockchain, connectivity and collectivity will no longer be issues. We will be able to provide a platform where peer reviews and ease of access allow the artists to reach their global audience, free from the confines of borders and regulation. We are building our team and working hard to be prepared for when that day comes.

Carbon 12

Portrait of Kourosh Nouri and Nadine Knotzer courtesy of Carbon 12.

Founded in 2008 in Dubai by Kourosh Nouri and Nadine Knotzer.

Data Point: One of the few Middle Eastern galleries to vigorously participate in U.S. fairs. In the last year, it has shown at Expo Chicago, NADA Miami, the Dallas Art Fair, and at NADA House on Governor’s Island in New York.

Kourosh Nouri grew up in Iran dreaming of opening a gallery. In 2007, he and his wife, Nadine Knotzer, decided to open a space together. They put down roots in the U.A.E. and opened a gallery in Dubai in 2008. “There was back then a total absence of an international contemporary art program,” Nouri told Forbes. But the Alserkal Avenue location they picked soon became a hotbed of art market activity, and is now highlighted by the city’s Art Dubai fair. Carbon 12 has been the catalyst of that change, bringing international artists such as André Butzer, Michael Sailstorfer, and Philip Mueller to the Middle East.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

The promotion of our represented artists’ practices at the highest professional level.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

The transient nature of the city and the geopolitical tensions in the region. It’s hard enough to be a contemporary gallery in an emerging market, these extra factors sometimes make it very challenging.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

Going forward is the most exciting thing. The change is the evolution of our represented artists’ practices.

Africa and Europe

From left: View of Emalin’s exterior; portrait of Angelina Volk and Leopold Thun by Camilla Bach. Courtesy of Emalin.

Founded in 2016 in London by Leopold Thun and Angelina Volk.

Data Point: Represents a mix of artists, ranging from young sculptor Athena Papadopoulos to the Craigslist obsessive Megan Plunkett, and 1980s performance artist Kembra Pfahler.

Angelina Volk and Leopold Thun started their gallery a week after graduating from a master’s program. The brick-and-mortar space in a former locksmith came after two years of the duo staging itinerant exhibitions while still in school. The experience allowed them to hit the ground running, showing at 20 fairs in the gallery’s first three years. They have proven that they have the drive to establish a presence on both sides of the Atlantic: Earlier this year, Emalin rented out a West Village gallery space in New York for a month and participated in Tribeca’s Independent fair.

Installation view of Augustas Serapinas, “Augustas Serapinas - February 13th,” at Emalin, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Emalin, London. Photo by Plastiques.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

Emalin provides a platform and support structure for a diverse and critical program, with a focus on community building around emerging multidisciplinary practices.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

Even though there are obvious challenges specific to London—rising rents, limited space, and political uncertainty around Brexit—London is an amazing place with a young and diverse collector base and an incredible network of artists, curators, and thinkers.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

Because the building currently housing the gallery in Shoreditch will be redeveloped, we will probably have relocated to a new space. We want to continue developing the programme and expand our team. This August, we are organizing a month-long events program with Alvaro Barrington. It would be amazing to make that kind of interdisciplinary public programming a permanent fixture at the gallery going forward.

Portrait of Anne-Sarah Bénichou by Jean Picon. Courtesy of Galerie Anne-Sarah Bénichou.

Founded in 2016 in Paris by Anne-Sarah Bénichou.

Data Point: Teamed up with a gallery in Istanbul, The Pill, for a two-person booth at Independent Brussels in November 2018.

Among the old-guard establishment galleries of Paris that dot the chic area of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is Galerie Natalie Seroussi, whose namesake has spent more than 30 years showing masters of 20th-century art, from Dada and Arte Povera to Pop and Surrealism. But after five years there, the gallery’s young director, Anne-Sarah Bénichou, decided to go her own way, opening a space in the Marais. Instead of focusing on Picabia or Dalí, Bénichou has built out an admirably eclectic group of artists to show at her space. On the roster is the young Algerian artist Massinissa Selmani; Marion Baruch, who was born in Romania in 1929; and Seton Smith, a photographer and sister to Kiki Smith.

Installation view of Decebal Scriba, “Passages” at Galerie Anne-Sarah Bénichou, Paris, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Anne-Sarah Bénichou.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

I think the principal mission of a gallery is to valorise, help, and allow artists to live from their art and to be recognized for the true value of their work.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

The biggest difficulty tied to our geographic zone probably comes from the fact that there is a large number of quality galleries in Paris. A new one opens and the number of collectors does not increase proportionally! It’s good for the vitality of the Parisian art scene, but it also makes for difficult competition.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

I’d like to maintain my way of working, with a real support for my artists, while also developing internationally. And especially discovering the great artists of tomorrow.

From left: Portrait of Daniel Wichelhaus by Uli Holz; installation view of Kaspar Müller “Why always me?,” at Société, Berlin, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Société.

Founded in 2010 in Berlin by Daniel Wichelhaus.

Data Point: Showing in Art Basel’s main Galleries sector for the first time this year.

At first, it seemed like purely a provocative stunt: At Frieze New York in 2016, the gallery Société had a solo booth by the artist Sean Raspet consisting of fridges filled with Soylent, which the dealers were giving out for free. But as is often the case with Société, there was more than met the eye. Raspet was hired by Soylent to create a new flavor that would be “abstract” in the way that his edible and smellable work usually is—making the meal replacement drink both the medium and message for the artist. Gallery founder Daniel Wichelhaus has built one of Berlin’s most exciting art spaces by pushing his artists to expand their platforms. His latest star is Lu Yang, the video artist whose crazed creations wowed at the Shanghai Biennale in 2018 and Art Basel in Hong Kong earlier this year.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

Providing an infrastructure for exceptional artists to realize their vision.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

The food.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

The enterprise will get larger and even more exciting thanks to the exceptional artists and the exceptional team at Société in Berlin.

Portrait of Mesai Haileleul and Rakeb Sile courtesy of Addis Fine Art.

Founded in 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by Mesai Haileleul and Rakeb Sile.

Data Point: The city’s first gallery to focus on Ethiopian art and its diaspora.

It took an art dealer in Los Angeles and a business consultant in London to create Ethiopia’s most exciting young gallery. After attending the 1-54 African Art Fair in London, Rakeb Sile wondered why there weren’t more Ethiopean artists who were globally known. She discovered Mesai Haileleul, a gallery owner who had been in L.A. for 30 years selling Ethiopean art, and had not returned to his home country in decades. Sile went to L.A. to find him and lured him back to Africa, convincing him to dive into the local art market. The two opened a gallery in Addis Ababa. and it quickly became the go-to place for Ethiopean art, especially after opening a sister space in London to connect the artists with collectors in European markets.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

Our mission is to be the leading gallery facilitating critical engagement and championing fine art from the Horn of Africa and its diasporas.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

Running a gallery in Ethiopia has many logistical challenges! But the country is a goldmine for visual creative talent, both new and established. We feel it is important to be here on the ground, close to our artists, on the pulse of the city, and being part of the growing contemporary cultural scene.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

Our main space in Addis Ababa is the first international gallery in the country. We plan to expand the size of the gallery to present more important and exciting artists. Our international platform will move to London’s Cromwell Place in South Kensington, where we will focus on artists in the diaspora, and bringing the local and diaspora narratives together.

From left: portrait of Jonathan Garnham courtesy of Blank Projects; installation view of Kyle Morland, “Kyle Morland,” at Blank Projects, Cape Town, 2018. Courtesy of Blank Projects.

Founded in 2012 in Cape Town by Jonathan Garnham.

Data point: Winner of The Armory Show’s 2018 Presents Booth Prize.

Jonathan Garnham is a Cape Town native, but he spent the last years of apartheid in Berlin, living as an artist as that city became one of the world’s most vibrant for galleries. When he returned to South Africa in 2005, he found the country’s art offerings lacking and opened a nonprofit space, christening it with an anything-goes name: Blank. In 2012, the space transitioned into a commercial gallery as Garnham began to represent artists from across the continent, and show their art at fairs around the world. He has since become a powerhouse dealer who shows talent from the entire African continent, not just artists from his country.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

To support the artists we work with in presenting a compelling programme that furthers the discourse around contemporary art, both in South Africa and internationally.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

The relative lack of institutions and collectors in the region, and the distances we have to travel to present our program to different audiences.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

We have grown incredibly over the past five years, and I see us continuing that trajectory, growing with our artists and becoming better at what we do, while hopefully not losing our agility and ability to take risks.

Portrait of Lucas Casso. Courtesy of Sweetwater.

Founded in 2018 in Berlin by Lucas Casso.

Data Point: Accepted to Liste less than five months after opening its first show.

Bankers have become art dealers before, but Lucas Casso may be the first dealer to leave Goldman Sachs in his twenties and open a contemporary art gallery in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood. His career change was far from rash, and his track record already proves it. In February, during Frieze Los Angeles, he rented a space steps away from LACMA and showed stellar works by the artists Friedemann Heckel and Luzie Meyer. He’s now showing at Liste with new work by Kayode Ojo, the first artist who inaugurated his gallery last year.

Installation view of Jesse Stecklow, “Ditto.” Photo by of Sweetwater.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

I founded Sweetwater not with some grand overall mission, but because I wanted to show challenging conceptual work.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

It’s easy to find articles and interviews explaining that Berlin is no longer a great place for galleries because of rising costs, relative lack of local collectors, etc., but I disagree, or I wouldn’t have come here! The challenges that galleries in Berlin face are not so different from those in other major cities; regardless of where a gallery is located, creating a financially sustainable model and developing an extensive international network are imperative.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

I expect Sweetwater to grow and develop alongside and in collaboration with its artists. Developing a consistent and defined program in this way is a process that happens not just in a couple shows, but in a couple years. It is also important to export these ideas beyond the confines of the gallery in Berlin through off-site presentations in art fairs, gallery swaps, and other collaborative projects.

From left: Portrait of Katharina Schendl and Isabella Ritter by Tina Herzl; installation view of Hanne Lippard, “foul soul,” at LambdaLambdaLambda, 2019. Both courtesy of LambdaLambdaLambda.

Founded in 2015 in Pristina, Kosovo, by Katharina Schendl and Isabella Ritter.

Data Point: It’s the first contemporary art gallery in Kosovo.

The curators Katharina Schendl and Isabella Ritter were living in Vienna in 2012, but when Schendl went to Pristina, Kosovo, at the invitation of a local curator, she fell for the city. She eventually convinced Ritter to open a gallery there. In the years since LambdaLambdaLambda opened in 2015, its stature has only grown with appearances at fairs such as Liste and Material for several years running. The artist Seth Price suggested the gallery’s name. “In physics, the lambda is the sign for a frequency, which we liked,” Schendl told Artforum. “It’s also the name of the fraternity in Revenge of the Nerds?”

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

LambdaLambdaLambda’s mission is to develop a coherent and strong program to bring more visibility to the art scene of Kosovo and the overall region.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

The biggest challenge is definitely access and the lack of infrastructure, which we do not necessarily see as a disadvantage, rather an opportunity to think of alternative, non-hegemonic ways of doing things.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

We are working on further expanding our program to work with more artists from the wider region, and recently also started a space in Brussels with three other galleries (Lulu, Misako & Rosen, and Park View/Paul Soto) called La Maison de Rendez-Vous. We strongly believe in this type of collaboration, as well as its future.

Arcadia Missa

Portrait of Rózsa Farkas by Alice Neale. Courtesy of Arcadia Missa.

Founded in 2014 in London by Rózsa Farkas.

Data Point: Won the NADA Miami International Gallery Prize in 2018, allowing the gallery to show at the Miami Beach fair for free.

After a few years as a project space, Rózsa Farkas turned Arcadia Missa into a commercial gallery in 2014. The timing was fortuitous. That year, Amalia Ulman—an artist who overlapped with Farkas at Central Saint Martin and had her first show at Arcadia Missa—executed a groundbreaking performance that played out on Instagram. In 2016, it was included in a group show at the Tate Modern, marking one of the first times a work on social media was included in a show at a major institution. Since then, Farkas has developed a deep roster that includes Phoebe Collings-James, Hannah Black, and others.

Installation view of Melike Kara, “My beloved Wild Valley,” at Arcadia Missa. Photo by Ollie Hammick. Courtesy of the artist and Arcadia Missa, London.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

I work with artists I consider to be making urgent and vital work.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?


How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

I think we will slow down on fairs.

Bonny Poon

From left: Jacqueline Fraser, detail of The Making of Dressed to Kill 2019 (8), 2019. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Romain Darnaud. Portrait of Nathaniel Monjaret and Bonny Poon by Mauricio Guillén. Both courtesy of Bonny Poon, Paris.

Founded in 2017 in Paris by Nathaniel Monjaret and Bonny Poon.

Data Point: Some of the unforgettable exhibition titles for past shows at the gallery include “Property Sex,” “Hip Young Gallery—A desire to participate, but at what personal cost?” and “Incest.”

The artists Bonny Poon and Nathaniel Monjaret had only been putting on shows for a year, at a by-appointment space in a high-rise building in the 13th arrondissement, when they went to install a booth at FIAC, the hometown fair. Instead of staying local, they displayed a collaboration between Franco Polish Black Jeans Porn Club, the collective associated with New York artists Ben Schumacher and Jim Joe, the latter of whom is the street artist known for writing his name on Lower East Side buildings. The collaboration turned out to be a showstopper, featuring a 2003 Volkswagen Jetta with Jim Joe graffiti that had been shipped to Paris on a boat and taken apart so it could be brought into the Grand Palais.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

Destroy contemporary art as we know it. In the process, make money—for our artists to be happy to be artists and for us to be gallerists. Fair play is key.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

France. No comment.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

Bigger or over. Sadly, it’s not realistic to think otherwise in the current economy.

Portrait of Maria Bernheim courtesy of Maria Bernheim.

Founded in 2015 in Zurich by Maria Bernheim.

Data Point: Before opening her gallery, Bernheim had been a director at Galerie Eva Presenhuber, and before that, she was head of publications for Galerie Gmurzynska.

If you want to open a gallery in Zurich, the smart location would be the Löwenbräukunst, a former brewery that houses the local branch of Hauser & Wirth, LUMA Westbau, Kunsthalle Zurich, the Migros Museum of Contemporary Art, and more. But Maria Bernheim opened her space across the street. The slight distance from the center of power suits her perfectly. She is focused on giving young Swiss artists their first shows, but also wants to exhibit bigger names like Mitchell Anderson and Jon Rafman.

Installation view of Denis Savary, “Swamp,” at Maria Bernheim, 2018. Courtesy of Maria Bernheim.

What is the gallery’s overall mission?

Supporting the best artists of my generation and building bridges.

What are the biggest challenges to running an art gallery in your city or region?

Opening up minds. The Swiss art scene is incredibly spoiled, with fantastic institutions accessible from all over the country, an extraordinary support system for artists and an incomparable collector base. It’s easy to stay within our borders. We try to bring exciting, unexpected points of view through new artists.

How do you see your gallery changing over the next five years?

Hopefully investing more into Zurich, with a larger space, hopefully a space in another location in the world, and hopefully more colleagues, so we can work with more artists that I admire. I think that there has been a great trend in rediscoveries, which was necessary to question the art historical canon, but it has also left less support for artists of my generation.

Nate Freeman

Corrections: A previous version of this article misspelled Gabriel Orozco’s name as Gabriel Arozco; additionally, Angelina Volk was referred to as Angela Volk. The text has been updated to reflect these changes.

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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019