On Friday, Sotheby’s announced that the gallery spaces at its New York headquarters on York Avenue in Manhattan will be gutted as part of an ambitious redesign, one that will expand the spaces from 67,000 square feet to 90,000 square feet and create some rooms with 20-foot-high ceilings. The new gallery design is being overseen by the architect Shohei Shigematsu of OMA, and will open to the public on May 3rd, ahead of the annual run of bellwether spring auctions in New York City.
There will be 40 galleries, in different shapes and sizes, across four floors of the building on the Upper East Side, and a press release casually notes that the new spaces will “distinguish Sotheby’s as the world’s premier commercial space for viewing and acquiring fine art, precious objects, luxury goods, and more.” Large-scale works will be placed in the two-story rooms, while full collections will inhabit a space dubbed “The Grand Gallery,” which is 150 feet long. There are “domestically-scaled” galleries to show furniture, nine private spaces for top-secret deals with super-discreet collectors, and “The Octagon Gallery, a temple-like space ideal for jewelry, watches and other intimately-scaled objects.”
In a statement, Tad Smith, CEO of Sotheby’s, said:
Our ambition was to completely reimagine the client experience in our building—from arrival into our lobby, and the path taken to view an exhibition and participate in an auction, through to collecting new purchases . We are thrilled with the way Shohei Shigematsu and OMA New York have realized our vision for a dynamic space that can serve our clients today, and grow with our business and the market into the future.
The new spaces will have 3,000 light fixtures and 7,228 linear feet of lighting tracks. In total, there will be 5,435 linear feet of gallery wall space. The largest gallery is 4,100 square feet, and the smallest gallery is 350 square feet. As an added bonus, there will be a new Sant Ambroeus Coffee Bar. Delicious tiny Italian sandwiches for everyone!
In the statement, architect Shohei Shigematsu stated his intentions thusly:
We wanted to embody Sotheby’s ambition to reinvigorate and enhance the client experience by introducing high-—flexibility through reorganization of programs and diversification of gallery spaces. The new headquarters is designed for openness and discovery—all public facing programs are shifted to lower levels, unlocking the public potential of the building. A taxonomy of galleries can be used separately or as clusters to allow curatorial freedom, driven by business model shifts and expanding repertoire of programming.
Sotheby’s announcement did not discuss the budget for the redesign, though perhaps it will be discussed in the earnings call to shareholders that Smith will deliver next week.