These medium-sized art galleries punch well above their weight. How? By sharing profits and production costs
Earlier this year, six dealers from around the world representing veteran painter Rochelle Feinstein came up with a bold plan to show off her work.
The managers of the galleries of Nina Johnson, Bridget Donahue, Hannah Hoffman, Francesca Pia, Candice Madey and Campoli Presti athe greed to stage a multi-chapter show of Feinstein’s work in two tours across multiple time zones and countries.
At the end of January, Johnson, donahue, and Madey opened concurrent shows in Miami and New York. Last weekend, on February 12, Hoffman in Los Angeles, Pia in Zurich and Presti in Paris opened their own exhibitions of paintings by Feinstein. Think of it as one big exhibit with a shared checklist, taking place in multiple rooms, the main difference being that each is in a different corner of the world. Cheeky, Feinstein gave all six shows the same title: “You Again.”
The idea, Johnson told Artnet News, was to do something unheard of for an artist.
“Without being a large multinational gallery, we wanted to understand to produce an exhibition that allows for a rich understanding of Rochelle’s work,” Johnson said.
Financially, the plan relied on a unique profit-sharing model, with 30% of all sales going to the gallery that sold the work; 50% goes to Feinstein; and 20 percent to be shared in a pool for the other five dealers. Jobs range from $40,000 to $250,000.
The goal, Johnson said, was “to be efficient as a group of small dealers. What can we do for that person that hasn’t been done before? »
Confront the Big Dogs
Natasha Degen, chair of art market studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, says collaborations between dealers have a long history. Leo Castelli, for example, organized joint exhibitions in a “divide and conquer approach” with young gallerists more attuned to emerging scenes throughout the 1980s.
“His partners have benefited from his imprimatur, as well as his client list,” she told Artnet News.
Yet, more than ever, old business formalities are being thrown completely out the window. Mega-resellers like David Zwirner have their own online sales platforms; regional powers like Johann König organizes auctions and art fairs; and others, like Dominique Lévy, Brett Gorvy, Amalia Dayan and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn join forces to create conglomerate operations like LGDRtheir new international concession formed during the dissolution of Salon 94, Luxembourg and Dayan, and Lévy Gorvy.
For smaller organizations, working together isn’t just about sharing space, according to the Condo model, a traveling gallery-sharing initiative in which local dealers hosted out-of-town gallery owners hosting temporary exhibitions. Collaboration is now also about sharing financial gains and losses: the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) launched the model when 40% of the proceeds from any sale in its May 2020 online viewing room went to a pool community for all exhibitors and artists.
“Now that the market is so strong, we have a real chance of successfully operating the model,” said the art dealer. Longtime NADA member Jeffrey Rosen told Artnet News. “The time is right for this pattern, but the question is whether the motivation can be sustained absent the uncertainty we’ve all felt in 2020.”
There is growing evidence that the approach is sustainable – or at least of some interest to dealers. In New York, an exhibition by Nick Relph recently opened as a co-production between the Herald St gallery and Gordon Robichaux. And in January, Mendes Wood DM and Clearing worked together on a two-part exhibition in Brussels of artist Neïl Beloufa that the galleries consider impossible to organize alone.
“As the production for this exhibit was very high, especially the immersive installation at the Clearing space, we decided that everything should be split evenly,” said Pierre Lannoy, sales associate at Mendes Woods DM. They also agreed to check in before sales close on either side. Works range from €20,000 to €90,000.
For some artists, the model works particularly well: te Feinstein, 74, who has been painting for nearly five decades, does work that “really challenges hierarchies,” said Leo Lencsés from the Francesca Pia gallery.
“She has a lot of institutional recognition in Europe,” he said. “In the United States, its market is a little stronger. Profit sharing helps level those prerequisites that each partner has in this game.” This type of pairing “really takes the edge away” from the dealers, Johnson added.
Still, Rosen cautions that for the model to work, it requires substantial communication and a spirit of collaboration. “You really need everyone to cooperate and support each other. The numbers will only work if the galleries that sell are totally willing to help those that don’t.
But when the model is successful, it allows dealerships to execute plans that only much wealthier competitors can typically undertake, all without becoming too corporateized.
“Galleries of our stature can offer something you just can’t get at the behemoth level,” Johnson said. “It’s a personal and emotional touch.”
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