Art Market

Why Secondary Market Galleries Appeal to New and Established Collectors Alike

Ayanna Dozier
Nov 4, 2022 2:22PM
Robert Rauschenberg
Matinee [Anagram (A Pun)], 1997

If you dream of collecting work by a modern or contemporary master, secondary-market galleries can be great places to start your search.

While primary-market galleries work with living artists to exhibit and sell their work for the first time, secondary-market galleries (along with auction houses) are responsible for subsequent transactions. Their inventory can come from private collectors looking to sell or from estates that want to thoughtfully offload their holdings. Some galleries, such as Alex Daniels – Reflex Amsterdam, operate within both markets.

Collectors might ask why they should buy from a secondary-market gallery instead of an auction. A major reason is that secondary-market galleries are long-term resources, like art advisors and scholars, that can preserve and study artworks. Top-tier secondary-market dealers always maintain relationships with artists and their estates.

Artsy spoke with John Russo, CEO of London-, Gstaad-, and Los Angeles–based Maddox Gallery; Debra Pesci, director at New York–based Hollis Taggart; and Aeneas Bastian, director at London- and Berlin-based BASTIAN to learn why secondary-market galleries are places to discover artists and make secure investments.

They’re havens for curatorial rediscoveries

Anselm Kiefer, installation view of “Le Dormeur du Val” at BASTIAN Berlin, 2021. © BASTIAN. Photo by Celine Bastian. Courtesy of BASTIAN.


Many secondary-market galleries make it their mission to find and promote underrecognized artists within popular art genres and movements. “We only exhibit and offer secondary-market works which we know very well, primarily German and American 20th-century and post-war works, allowing our clients to buy with confidence,” Bastian said.

Hollis Taggart similarly focuses on 20th-century artworks, transacting in styles and genres that are guaranteed to sell—focusing on mid-20th-century Abstract Expressionism in particular. “Our gallery has a decades-long tradition of championing artists who have for one reason or another fallen out of favor, but who are deserving of a second look,” Pesci said.

She added, “We have brought many American modernists back into notice and have continued the trend with post-war artists like Michael Corinne West, Leon Berkowitz, Albert Kotin, Idelle Weber, and Norman Carton.” Most recently, the gallery mounted a very successful exhibition, “Kinship,” that pairs the work of 20th-century painter Betty Parsons with the moody Abstract Expressionist paintings of Dusti Bongé (on view through November 12th).

Installation view of “Kinship” at Hollis Taggart, 2022. Courtesy of Hollis Taggart.

Hollis Taggart also strives to build robust scholarly resources so collectors can fully appreciate the artists’ work. The gallery creates thorough marketing and exhibition plans that gradually, over the course of months and years, reintroduce overlooked artists to new audiences. “West is a good example,” Pesci said. “We organized three exhibitions of the artist’s work; the first was a kind of retrospective to reintroduce the artist which was subsequently followed up by two thematic shows touching upon different aspects of her oeuvre. In this way, with the accompaniment of scholarly catalogues, we bring a fuller and continued presentation of the artist’s work.”

At Maddox Gallery, curation is a team effort. The team leverages resources such as social media to generate enthusiasm and insert the gallery’s exhibitions into contemporary discussions. “We seek to curate exhibitions that follow a theme,” Russo said. “From subject matter to aesthetic analysis, social themes to rarity, curation of secondary-market works needs to allow a narrative that speaks across everything hanging with the gallery.”

They’re ideal art-buying venues for young collectors

Gdansk 17 (Mother and Child), 2019
Maddox Gallery
Julian Opie
Monique Walking, 2004
Maddox Gallery

Secondary-market galleries are largely associated with an older generation of collectors because of their emphasis on 20th-century art. Yet the gallery representatives we spoke with remarked on millennials’ enthusiasm for 20th-century artworks. Russo reasoned that many of these young buyers, who have uniquely lived through multiple economic recessions, want to make sound financial investments.

“[Secondary-market pieces] can be a very good investment and an alternative to primary works given the fact that quite a few remarkable artists are about to be rediscovered,” Bastian said. “There are buyers for young emerging artists, as well as for the most established artists of our time, but some collectors may prefer to look for underrated works on the secondary market.”

Maddox Gallery also recognizes that the market is interesting for millennial and Gen X collectors. Russo notes that one reason for this may be that 20th-century art styles like Pop art are finding a resurgence among contemporary artists like Stik and Javier Calleja. “These young collectors are feeling nostalgic, which is reflected in the desire to consume works with a playful optimism and enormous following,” he said.

They offer sound investments

“Historically, art is the safe haven during economic uncertainty,” said Russo. “Over the last 100 years, from the Great Depression to 2008 recessions, from World War II to the dot-com bubble, savvy investors have used the secondary art market to protect their wealth.”

Pesci mentioned how art investments are often essential to a viable financial portfolio. The gallery guides collectors towards artworks from established genres that still cater to the art market’s interest in newness. “We have had considerable success in establishing an escalating market for some of our ‘rediscovered’ artists,” she said. “We see that as part of the bigger picture—to not only raise awareness of these artists, but to also increase commercial value as well.” Bastian added that “some of these works are totally undervalued and won’t suffer from an economic downturn.”

Ultimately, secondary-market galleries are a great gateway into art collecting because they offer financial security. As Russo concluded, “There is nothing more exciting than seeing a collector’s first steps into the secondary market. It’s a journey full of opportunity and extraordinary discoveries, but it must be balanced with ensuring authenticity and provenance.”

Ayanna Dozier
Ayanna Dozier is Artsy’s Staff Writer.

Thumbnail image: Exterior view of Maddox Gallery. Courtesy of Maddox Gallery.