Sometimes it’s a challenge to place the works as a result of these spatial concerns, because not everyone can accommodate the works, but it’s a good challenge. It’s also a compliment to the gallery that the space became part of the creative process, deemed by the artists to be the right environment to present their work.
The limits of a gallery are also clear: In a time when the art world is increasingly international, a space in one city can feel geographically limited, while art fairs offer global reach. Art fairs offer many opportunities and important ways to make connections—with collectors, curators, museum directors—and to learn, since each fair has, to a varying extent, a different offering and a different audience. While fairs are an important part of the art world ecosystem, they should remain an addition to what gallerists do through their gallery spaces.
For my gallery, the fairs are important. But three-quarters of our business continues to be done in the galleries, and I’m happy to keep it this way. When we have a major gallery show on the horizon, we prefer not to offer one of the works at a fair. One of the reasons is that we want to incentivize collectors, and especially new collectors, to come to the gallery. There, they will see the work in the context that the artist envisioned, and become part of that artist’s universe.
I am fortunate that today, several of my galleries are in London and Paris, cities people frequently visit. But I have seen my colleagues start galleries in remote locations, such as Galleria Continua
in San Gimignano, Italy, and create a global following and a reputation on the strength of the artists and the exhibitions they have mounted. I opened my first gallery in the 1980s in Salzburg, Austria, a small city bordering the Alps, and it still operates there successfully.
At that time, I made sure the exhibitions had a certain relevance, hoping that would get people to travel to them. For the early shows I did with
, he came to Salzburg not because I was immediately successful in selling his works, but because I totally believed in him and we went on a journey together.
’s exhibitions were exceptional events. Word spread about them and people travelled to them. That’s not to say that it was mainstream, because the art world then was more insular. But without art fairs, people who cared about contemporary art were more driven to come to galleries.