Larry Gagosian, known in the art circles, as "Gaga" or "gogo", due to his endless energy, is the owner of the Gagosian gallery in New York city. Larry began his trade as a poster and print dealer in Los Angeles and opened his first gallery in NYC with Annina Nosei almost 30 years ago.
His first first show was given to Contemporary artist David Salle (1). In 1985 he opened his own gallery and his first show was made of works from art collectors Burton and Emily Tremaine who began collecting 20th-century art when they were married in 1945. By the early 1980's the Tremaine collection had grown to more than 400 works by European and American artists. Burton was the heir of a man who founded a company that became General Electric.
The Tremaine were usually dealing with the famous art dealer Leo Castelli but Gagosian eventually succeeded to win Emily over by keeping on calling her. His first major client was the very wealthy S.I.Newhouse, owner of Condé Nast publishing Cy. to whom he sold Piet Mondrian's Victory Boogie Woogie for $10 million (picture above at left). He even convinced Newhouse to come in person at the sale and the art world was very impressed by his business acumen.
Gagosian is active in primary and secondary Art markets. Today he has a roster of customers that include Newhouse, Geffen and even the very redoutable Englisman Charles Saatchi who has his own gallery and is known for making or unravelling artists. As for the artists he represents, it is also a very long list of celebrities like Jeff Koons, Mike Kelley, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning, Rachel Whiteread and the ubiquitous Damien Hirst for the U.S. market.
Larry has two galleries in New York city, one in Los Angeles, two in London, a very beautiful one in via Veneto in Rome and plans to open one in China. His "branding" (2) power is equal only by his capacity to pre-sale an exhibit. In June 2006 he pre-sold £4 million of a Damien Hirst show and although he does not represent Francis Bacon's estate he is capable to exhibit and sell a lot of the Irish-Englishman painter's works.
The very expensive American artist John Currin who was under contract with the art dealer Andrea Rosen came to "Gaga" when Larry brokered the sale of his Fishermen to S.I. Newhouse for $1.4 million. Hedge fund manager Adam Sender had paid $600,000 for it 18 months earlier . Sender got his start trading stocks in 1989 at the University of Michigan. By 1998, Sender was making tens of millions of dollars per year and had started his own firm. With no place to reinvest his funds, he found a perfect outlet—his love for art. He is known in the art and finance world as the man with 107 "screeens" (picture). Gagosian's strategy to open multiple galleries all over the
world is not a cheap one and it is reserved to dealers with very deep pockets. It is said that Gagosian can afford to pay stipends in hundreds of thousands artists to a roster of artists.
It will be interesting to see in the current market conditions how dealers like Gagosian are going to perform. Will the perenial fight between dealers and auction houses will end due to a crunch of the credit and a dry-up of the ressources of the wealthy clients of the galleries ? Most hedge funds are already forced to sell their assets either due to the demand of their impoverished clients or to cover their margin calls.
Gagosian is a "bourreau de travail" (work alcoholic) and expects his staff to do the same. He recently said to his collaborators and helpers that if they would like to continue working for Gagosian he suggested they start to sell some art." Who said that the current Contemporary Art market was doing better than any other market ? Certainly not Gaga !
(1) David Salle (born 1952) is an American painter and leading contemporary figurative artist. Salle was born in Norman, Oklahoma. He earned a BFA and MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, where he studied with John Baldessari. Salle’s work first came to public attention in New York in the early 1980s
(2) the capacity for an art dealer to make and promote an artist and his/her works